Earth Observation Data

Task Team of the UN Committee of Experts on Big Data and Data Science for Official Statistics

Mission and Strategies

The demand for more diversified, sophisticated and rapid statistical services could be met by leveraging the emerging sources of Big Data, such as those relating to remote sensing imagery, transactional and social media data and mobile device data.

Statistical agencies around the world have a strong interest in investigating the viability of using satellite imagery data to improve official statistics on a wide range of topics spanning agriculture, the environment, business activity and transport. Satellite imagery has significant potential to provide more timely statistical outputs, to reduce the frequency of surveys, to reduce respondent burden and other costs and to provide data at a more disaggregated level for informed decision making.

Satellite imagery may also support the monitoring of the Post-2015 development goals by improving timeliness and relevance of indicators without compromising their impartiality and methodological soundness.

The Task Team on Earth Observation Data aims to provide strategic vision, direction and development of a global work plan on utilising satellite imagery and geo-spatial data for official statistics and indicators for post-2015 development goals. We are building on precedents to innovatively solve the many challenges facing the use of satellite imagery and geo-spatial data sources.

Specifically, we will

  • Identify reliable and accurate statistical methods for estimating quantities of interest;
  • Suggest approaches for collecting representative training and validation data of sufficient quality;
  • Research, develop and implement assessment methods for the proposed models including measures of accuracy and goodness of fit;
  • Establish strategies to reuse and adapt algorithms across topics and to build implementations for large volumes of data.

Use Cases

Earth observation techniques are being used in many applications developed by the Task Team and other partners.

Digital Earth Africa

Use of EO data in Agriculture Statistics of Statistics Canada

Task Team members

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
  • International Telecommunication Union
  • European Commission - DG Eurostat and DG Joint Research Centre
  • Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica - DANE
  • University of Queensland: Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation
  • United Nations Statistics Division
  • Google
  • Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence For Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • IBM Research

Pilot Projects