The COVID-19 Data and Innovation Centre

May 10, 2021

Written by: Luisa Córdoba

When the COVID-19 pandemic stormed the world in 2020, it threatened to dissolve much of the hard-earned progress achieved globally on the 2030 Agenda.

That was the reason why Cepei imagined and launched the COVID-19 Data & Innovation Centre by the end of 2020, alongside the UN COVID-19 Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF), the Tableau Foundation , and 20 other partners. As the Centre’s Secretariat, Cepei arrayed a multinational, and multidisciplinary expert group to create the platform. Our goal as a Southern platform is to bring knowledge from the South to the world.

Cepei is a Global South independent think tank established in 2002 and headquartered in Bogotá, Colombia. Cepei runs on diversity and the creativity of its multidisciplinary team of issue experts and partners worldwide. We are global citizens thrilled by the possibilities happening at the intersection of human and data connections. Although we focus on Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), we work globally. Our approach to partnering with sustainable development stakeholders places us as a benchmark think tank in the Global South.  

The COVID-19 Data and Innovation Centre exists to deliver information, evidence, knowledge, innovation strategies, territorial requirements, and policy recommendations to the COVID-19 Multi-Partner Trust Fund in its  purpose of strengthening response and recovery actions in the Global South.

The Centre promotes, facilitates, supports, and advises alliances between global, national, and local stakeholders to face the non-health-related dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic impact in societies.

How does the Centre partner to harness data and produce knowledge?

Imagine the amount of data being produced since the beginning of the pandemic. The Centre selects quality open data to produce knowledge that informs decision-makers and provides evidence for resources to flow where they are critically needed.

To fulfill this, the Centre plays three key roles:

  • To be a connector, meaning we reach out and build bridges between stakeholders to improve national and local plans for response and recovery.
  • To be inclusive, meaning that we want to bring a distinct value by making sure those connections focus on leaving no one behind, by reaching deeply into the communities, at the local level. This is a unique value to our key stakeholders: the governments, the United Nations, Civil Society, Academia, philanthropy, and the private sector.
  • And third, to bring knowledge from the South to the world,  meaning that those connections we pursue and manage must produce said knowledge and evidence, and that we must partner to share what we learn.

To connect, to be inclusive, and to bring knowledge from the south to the world, the COVID-19 Data and Innovation Centre is built on two pillars: Data analytics and innovation, and Multi-stakeholder partnerships.

  • Data analytics and innovation. To date, we have invested in generating a sophisticated architecture that facilitates data access, analytics, and dissemination.
  • Multi stakeholder partnerships. Because we never work alone, we connect with stakeholders at every level who are focused on the non-health-related dimensions of COVID-19’s impact in communities worldwide.

This strategy is  condensed in one tool: Our Datalab. It has also distilled into several other Tools and a few more in our pipeline focused on Innovation and Policy.

The Datalab

Other tools include:

  • A Global Terminal, which contains a broad set of data from multiple countries and sources and includes raw data, tables, graphs, visualizations, maps, and other formats that are available to users for downloading and analysis. 
  • National Data Terminals, which are platforms tracking the impact of each country’s response and recovery strategies. 
  • A Node Terminal, where local level data and partnerships are generating insights.
  • Country Profiles that are the gateway to all the products derived from our collaboration with each country from the Global South.


Cepei methodically identifies and brings to  the Centre new data stakeholders to fill the gaps that our partners and audiences identify. 

We emphasize on developing partnerships with local level data actors so the Centre remains an active link in the value chain of information and evidence for the COVID-19 response and recovery. We see the Centre as a key link bringing knowledge from the communities to the national, regional and global scenarios

We are always looking for partners to collaborate with, co-create, share information sources, and with whom to disseminate our knowledge on COVID-19.

South- South Cooperation

The Centre strengthens South-South cooperation between data scientists and emphasizes on developing local-level multi-sector partnerships. For example, scientists from Africa and Latin America have been working together during the last two years to create insights for decision makers and the public.

The Centre’s local-level partners are technically-capable, rooted in the communities, and facilitate the communities’ participation via contemporary information methodologies and social platforms. 

Data stories for social good

Can we tell a good COVID-19 response story together? Yes. Can it be beautiful? Yes. Cepei and the Centre are a great resource for data journalists, who also play an essential role regarding the COVID-19 recovery. We need to tell stories of impact, and we need to shine spotlights where we need more coordination and where there are even more opportunities for collaboration. 

With data journalists, the Centre harnesses the power of data in narratives, stories, and Tableau visualizations so that anyone using the Centre, whether it is an organization, an NGO, a government agency, a student, a researcher, an advocate, may incorporate this new knowledge in their everyday decision-making.