The daily use of mobile phones and social media, as well as the routine checking of equipment, such as cars or home appliances, generate continuous streams of electronic data. These data sources, commonly referred to as Big Data, can potentially be used in the compilation of official statistics for the purpose of evidence-based decision making. The UN Statistical Commission therefore established a Global Working Group (GWG) in 2014, which was mandated to provide strategic vision, direction and coordination on the use of Big Data for Official Statistics. The GWG promotes the practical use of Big Data, capacity building and sharing experiences, while finding solutions for the associated challenges.
The GWG organized its first global conference on Big Data in Beijing in October 2014 and showcased a variety of examples of Big Data projects for official statistics, such as Mobile phone data for daytime population statistics, Satellite imagery data for agriculture statistics and Social media data for consumer confidence indicators. The second global conference took place in Abu Dhabi in October 2015, where the GWG tried to more systematically progress in the use of Big Data in the production process of official statistics.
In line with the priorities of official statistics and with the urgent needs for support of SDG indicators, the third Global Conference on Big Data in Dublin wants to take the next steps in the utilization of non-traditional data sources. Going beyond the existing examples of isolated use of mobile phone data, social media data or satellite imagery data, innovations are needed in the daily production of official statistics, which requires real partnerships with the private sector, new skills and infrastructure, and clear links between these available Big Data sources and the SDG indicators. New public-private partnerships could make data, services and applications accessible and accelerate the synergies for research and capacity building.