Data to change lives and save lives

I was hoping to have a healthy summer, but due to a move across continents and a vacation in the US sampling various IPAs and burgers, my BMI went up by a couple of points. My heart rate remains steady and my daily steps average 8k -- "not ideal", said 7 of my friends. Thanks to live data on my phone and watch, I know what I will have to work on in the weeks to come!

While it's very easy for each of us to make decisions based on our personal data, when it comes to large projects on a global scale it's a different story.

In our work at the World Food Programme (WFP), a leading humanitarian organization assisting over 80 million people around the world, we face these challenges every day. With the number of people affected by acute food insecurity growing by more than 10 million in 2017, it is becoming increasingly clear that that we need to radically change the way we do business if we want to reach Zero Hunger by 2030.

At WFP, we strive to use data to understand the needs of those furthest behind and use digital solutions to empower and support them better than ever before. To do so, we are:

  1. Setting up rigorous governance and standards to improve data quality and integration;
  2. Developing partnerships to support our digital transformation efforts.

I strongly believe this is absolutely crucial to succeed and to have a real impact on the ground, ultimately saving more lives.

Addressing data principles, governance and architecture

Coming from the Technology division at WFP, a core function that I look at is automation, quality, and integration within the data value chain.

We are applying concrete data principles and governance processes to make the entire value chain transparent. This is the only way organizations like WFP can begin to fully trust the data we need to use when making operational decisions.

We also recognize that data governance is a priority area. At the end of 2017, we established the Data Management Committee, a senior leadership forum that ensures governance processes are aligned across different data domains, geographical and functional priorities.

We are also changing the architecture of how the data flows through the value chain, applying master data management principles and developing data ontologies. As a next step, we are looking to understand how we can further streamline these processes to exponentially increase our efficiency and effectiveness, as well as establish trust in the data.
Seeing as this is a growth area for WFP, I hope to discuss how we can learn from others on how to apply data standards in tandem with technology and user needs, and promote multi-stakeholder collaboration in this area during some of the exciting UN World Data Forum sessions on the agenda under Thematic Area 5.

Power of partnerships and looking for holistic approaches

In the last few years at WFP, we have used the power of partnerships with some of the leading digital technology companies, like Tableau, Google, Facebook, Ericsson and Cisco, to address not only data availability and integration, but also the areas of data culture, literacy and capacity. We've used private sector expertise and digital solutions to strengthen the way we can draw insights from data across platforms and paired them with WFP's in-house dedicated efforts around data coordination, data fellowship programs and rigorous data governance principles.

We need to continue building on partnerships with the private sector, UN organizations and national governments. I'm looking forward to the UN World Data Forum and to further these discussions on how we can work together to break down barriers between humanitarian and development contexts, making data and statistics relevant and usable to all users.

I will attend the UN World Data Forum along with a few colleagues that are working on shaping the Data Agenda at WFP and I am excited to see unexpected parallels between the thematic areas of the UN World Data Forum and the recent data efforts of WFP.

The UN World Data Forum 2018 promises to offer a unique platform for the humanitarian and development sector to come together to ensure that Sustainable Development Data is leveraged as a strategic resource to make better decisions, seize new opportunities and improve the lives of the people we serve.

We hope that we will be able to bring to the table some of our operational knowledge and share our experiences from working with the private sector, while learning from those that are at the forefront of embedding data into sustainable development.

Mr. Pierre Guillaume Wielezynski is the Digital Transformation Services Chief at the World Food Programme.