Improving data interoperability for the SDGs

Following an initial meeting convened last January at the margins of the first UN World Data Forum (UNWDF) in Cape Town, specialists from National Statistical Offices (NSOs), international organizations, private sector, and civil society, representing diverse perspectives, met again on 5 March 2017 in New York to discuss how to promote the use (and re-use) of available SDG-related data sets and how to make them more widely available and accessible across data ecosystems.

This multi-stakeholder meeting, which was jointly organized by the United Nations Statistics Division and the Global Partnership for Sustainbalbe Development Data (GPSDD), provided an opportunity to explore in more depth how technology and standards, data governance mechanisms, geospatial information systems and APIs can enable users to access, process and integrate multiple data assets into coherent information products or services across sources, domains, formats, units of analysis and time periods, through and technology standards.

After an introduction that set out the vision and expected outcomes (see accompanying concept note), participants split into three break-out groups to identify priorities, long-term objectives, and next steps to enhance SDG data inter-operability from three different perspectives: syntactic inter-operability, semantic inter-operability, and from a governance perspective with a view to setting out a roadmap for the establishment of a multistakeholder collaborative, jointly led by UNSD and GPSDD, to focus on a number of inter-operability challenges at a global level.

During the concluding plenary discussion, participants stressed the need to avoid duplication of efforts, as there are already ongoing initiatives in different domains on the issue of data inter-operability (for instance, among the geo-spatial information community), and to focus on already existing standards, rather than trying to build standards from scratch. The final plenary discussion also highlighted the crucial role of governance mechanisms and policy-level enragement in inter-operability challenges, as technology and the existence of standards alone do not guarantee the availability inter-operable data. It was further noted that capacitybuilding efforts are crucial for existing standards and tools for data inter-operability to be implemented at the country level.

It was agreed that a multi-stakeholder collaborative should be established, to provide policy-level guidance to a number of technical work-streams tasked with working towards finding solutions to some of the challenges identified.

The a summary of the outcomes from each break-out group, as well as a more details on next steps agreed by the group, are available here.