Data, Part 2: Data for Global Goals


2017-09-19 12.17.13This is the second of the two-part blog series on current discussions about data and its social, economic, and cultural implications.

The first part was based on the MyData 2017 conference; you can read it here.

This post, by Minna Horowitz, discusses data as a tool in implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, sometime called Global Goals), based on a related workshop at the UN Headquarters (19 September 2017).


The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSD) is “an unprecedented, open, multi-stakeholder network working to harness the data revolution for sustainable development.” Together with the the governments of Kenya, Colombia, Ghana and Sierra Leone the network organized an event of multiple panels addressing both specific Sustainable Development Goals, but also opportunities and challenges of data in the service of development.

The underlying premise of GPSD is that new technologies and tools are available to shine a light on the most critical problems of our time and illuminate the path to the Sustainable Development Goals.  However, the success is only possible through collaboration between governments, citizens, with the private sector, with regional bodies and global institutions. What is needed is not simply access to data but also robust infrastructures everywhere to create it.

The keynote, delivered by the Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo of Belgium gave the context of using data for SDGs:

Firstly, data has ceased to be a geeky topic and become a mainstream concern in the discussions on development. It is important to understand that big challenges such as migration, climate change, water supply, and others cannot be solved by any one country, by isolation and sovereignty.  Data is now borderless and can help us with these wicked problems. Secondly, globalization has been a one-way street but now solutions are being created all over the world.

However, we need to shift focus in development policies: We need to stop focusing on input metrics – how much we spend – to output metrics – what we really achieve – to track success. Data can track that for us. But we need interoperability and open data, and we need policy-making to meet technological innovation.

Key take-aways from the discussion of 16 distinguished panelists representing governments, non-governmental organizations, and corporations, from NASA to Telefonica – as tweets:

  1. @DavisAdieno: Critical role of #data to the achievement of #SDGs demonstrated by high level of interest in #Data4sdgs event @Data4SDGs #UNGA2017
  2. @zchriste: The leading edge of mobile payments is in dvlping countries, not the West. Globalization is two way street now – @alexanderdecroo #Data4SDGs
  3. @andycragg: Data is knowledge in is rawest form and we need knowledge to solve problems. #Data4SDGs #UNGA @CanWaCH – at UN Trusteeship Council Chamber
  4. @clairemelamed: Knowledge is power & knowledge is data: data to shine a light on worst probs of our time & solve them
  5. @unfoundation: “You can’t have good policy without good data.”–UN Foundation CEO & Pres. @Kathy_Calvin #Data4SDGs
  6. @OpenDataWatch: Ultimate test to #datarevolution? Sharing & documenting concrete examples of how data use has improved individual lives. #data4sdgs #unga17
  7. @UNGlobalPulse: @bobcollymore CEO of Safaricom notes great responsibility comes with managing #bigdata. Must be aware of risks to privacy #Data4SDGs
  8. @PlanNY_UN: @ABAlbrectsen “global citizenry expect government to deliver on the promises the #sdgs #DATA4SDGs
  9. @jaseslater: #Data4SDGs #sdg17 #globalgoals “Data makes the invisible visible” completely agree!

One response to “Data, Part 2: Data for Global Goals”

  1. Minna Aslama Horowitz Avatar
    Minna Aslama Horowitz

    Reblogged this on Minna Aslama Horowitz and commented:
    Data Part 2 – My summary of the #Data4SDGs event, 19 Sept 2017.

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