Connecting data communities

It is more than one year since the visionary Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed to by 193 Member States of the United Nations. The broader data community has already responded with a large number of initiatives, but a lot still has to be done to fulfil the data requirements of the 2030 Agenda. As written in the 2016 Sustainable Development Goals Report, "the data requirements for the global indicators are almost as unprecedented as the SDGs themselves, and constitute a tremendous challenge to all countries.

Nevertheless, fulfilling these requirements through building national statistical capacity is an essential step in establishing where we are now, charting a way forward, and bringing our collective vision closer to reality." To overcome these unprecedented challenges, existing partnerships have to be strengthened and new innovative collaborative networks have to be developed.

Objective 5.1 of the Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data being prepared by the High-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (HLG-PCCB), calls for "Developing and strengthening partnerships of national and international statistical systems with governments, academia, civil society, private sector and other stakeholders involved in the production and use of data for sustainable development."

The coordination, collaboration and communication among data communities are facing new challenges even in the countries with well-developed statistical systems. There is no doubt that at national level the National Statistical Offices (NSOs) and National Statistical Systems are in the centre of attention.

How can these different data communities be connected in the best way and by whom to gain the synergies, reduce the resources needed and provide the societies with high quality data? First, we have to continue to build our "common language" by agreeing and implementing common ethical, professional and technological standards at local, national and global levels. I believe that a changing data landscape with new players, new data sources and new users requires, among other things, a revision of existing legal and ethical arrangements. This calls for an open and proactive leadership and management of NSOs and International Statistical Organisations (ISOs).

The UN World Data Forum in Cape Town is a great opportunity to raise the attention of the main users, data providers and political authorities, in order to:

  • attain political agreement on collaborative frameworks and their coordination;
  • highlight innovative modes and ways of collaboration and communication;
  • exchange good practices on multi-stakeholder dialogs and other governance issues;
  • build a trustworthy framework among partners.

For instance, in a session at the UN World Data Forum on the modernisation of collaborative frameworks among data communities, speakers from different data communities will be searching for an answer a key question, namely, how can different data communities best work together? To inspire your participation in and contribution to this discussion, let me share with you a few examples of partnerships.

A counterpart of national statistical societies at the global level is the International Statistical Institute, whose history goes back to 1885. Its mission is to promote the understanding, development and good practice of statistics worldwide. Its World Statistics Congress (WSC) has a long tradition, bringing together every two years around 2000 to 3000 professionals from around the world from academia, civil society, official statistics and the private sector to discuss the latest innovations, share good practices, and build a network across the disciplines and sectors. The sixty first WSC will be held in Marrakech, Morocco from 16-21 July 2017.

The second example of partnership at global level is the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD). More than 150 champions from different sectors and different countries committed themselves "to build an enabling environment for harnessing the data revolution for sustainable development." Among other activities the GPSDD has developed a Digital Market Place. The aim is to support multi-stakeholder collaboration by connecting demand and supply for sustainable development data and optimizing resources. Over the last year, as we have worked together, the partnership has become a unique forum to bring together organizations across sectors for further collaboration.

The third example of a very interesting practice is the Solution Exchange for the African Statistical Community, an UN-sponsored, peer-to-peer facilitation service which was launched on 18 November 2015 by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UN ECA). The Solution Exchange for the African Statistical Community aims "to assist professionals with relevant and accurate data to allow them to plan, manage and monitor the performance of their countries' development efforts." As a member of this network, I can attest that this modern way of collaboration is extremely useful to help professionals dealing with data and statistics share their experiences and innovative proposals and learn from each other. It might be worth the effort to explore an idea to expand it to the global data community.

Please join us in Cape Town, become a part of the global data network and contribute to better statistics for a better world.