The United Nations University Institute on Computing and Society (UNU-CS) is a new research institute at the intersections of information and communication technologies and international development (ICTD) focusing on the key challenges faced by developing societies through high-impact innovations in computing and communication technologies.

UNU-CS is nurturing three inaugural ICTD research Labs:
Digital Peace Lab: ICTs for peacebuilding and to support human security, respond to crises, and mitigate human displacement.
Gender Tech Lab: ICTs that promote women’s empowerment and enable sustainable community led development.
Small Data Lab: ICTs that create actionable knowledge from local data, empower citizens with data they trust, and improve global datasets with local data.


The term “Big Data” has become a popular trope among practitioners and scholars of ICTD and international development more generally. Big Data usually refers to big datasets where the sheer volume of data challenges available platforms and algorithms for storage and analysis. Big Data often aggregates and analyzes information to make comparison between regional and political units, for instance the state. What country has the highest income or what region has the lowest unemployment rate? Thus, ...
While women’s disempowerment and gender based discrimination is pervasive around the globe, it is expressed in different ways in different cultures. Equally diverse is the capacity to resist, overcome or transform disempowering norms, beliefs and social structures. And while our networked world offers increasingly innovative ways for connection, mobilization and resistance, cyberspaces have also created new fora for discrimination and victimization to take place. The UNU-CS Gender Tech Lab has the ...
One-quarter of humanity lives in fragile, violent, and conflict-stressed environments. These people’s lives are often characterized by the starkest of realities: undernourishment, illiteracy, short life spans, displacement, and lack of access to basic sanitation and clean water. Destroyed and diminished infrastructure, weak institutions, and endemic mistrust and suspicion characterize conflict-affected areas. The UNU-CS Digital Peace Lab is examining and inventing ways that information and ...

UNU-CS will:

  • Lead in investigating and inventing human centered information and communication technologies addressing some of the priorities central to the United Nations such as: sustainability, development, governance, and peace and security.
  • Impact policymakers, within the UN system and beyond, through actionable knowledge and thought-leadership.
  • Nurture the next generation of inter-disciplinary computing, information and social scientists; and engineers in developing countries.
  • Embrace the enormous dynamism of the city of Macau and Pearl River Delta region while still working globally.

What are your main areas of research?

UNU-CS is a research start-up with a dynamic and entrepreneurial attitude. All areas of information and communication technologies and international development are open for consideration. Potential research ideas are evaluated based on an assessment of: importance (is this a high-impact area with global import and UN relevance), fit (can UNU-CS realistically make a difference in this area), people (do we have or can we hire world-class passionate research staff in this area).

During our start-up phase we are launching three research labs each with their own (cross-cutting) focus.

Who directs UNU-CS?

Dr. Michael L. Best directs UNU-CS. He is a professor, on leave, with the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology where he directs the Technologies and International Development Lab. He is also faculty associate with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Best’s research focuses on ICTs for social, economic, and political development. In particular he studies mobile and Internet-enabled services and their design, impact, and importance within low-income countries of Africa and Asia. He researches engineering, public policy, and business issues as well as methods to assess and evaluate development outcomes. Professor Best is also interested in the impact of ICTs on the development-security nexus and on post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation.

Professor Best is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the widely read journal, Information Technologies and International Development and he leads the Global Computing column for Communications of the ACM. He holds a Ph.D. from MIT and has served as director of Media Lab Asia in India and head of the eDevelopment group at the MIT Media Lab.

Who is on your international Advisory Board?

Dr. Edward Cutrell (USA), Chair
Manager, Technology for Emerging Markets Group, Microsoft Research India

Dr. Omobola Johnson (Nigeria)
Honorary Chairperson, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI)

Prof. Deepak Kapur (India)
Distinguished Professor, Department of Computer Science, School of Engineering, University of New Mexico

Prof. Tze Yun Leong (Malaysia)
Professor of Information Systems, School of Information Systems, Singapore Management University

Prof. Tim Unwin (UK)
Professor of Geography Emeritus, Royal Holloway, University of London

Dr. Zhang Xu (China)
Director, Center of Science and Technology Studies, The Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China

Prof. Wei Zhao (China)
Rector and Chair Professor of Computer and Information Science, University of Macau

Just where (and why) is it in Macau?

UNU-CS is situated on the Macau peninsula in Casa Silva Mendes. Built in 1905, this neoclassical mansion once belonged to Manuel de Sliva Mendes, a renowned writer and art collector. In 1999 the original building interiors were renovated along with the creation of two modern additions. The interiors are currently undergoing additional renovations creating a world-class research facility within an early 20th century stately mansion.

While Macau is well known for its dynamic gaming industry, UNU-CS is situated in the heart of the Portuguese and Chinese inspired city center and located within the dynamic Pearl River Delta region with easy linkages to Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

The United Nations University began its presence in Macau in 1992 with the establishment of the International Institute for Software Technology (UNU-IIST) created thanks to generous support from the government of the Peoples Republic of China, Portugal, and the Special Administrative Region of Macau. Growing out of this foundation, UNU-CS is an energetic and innovative new initiative of the United Nations University in Macau.

How do I find out more?

Check out our contact page!

Download our inaugural brochure!

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