The first United Nations World Data Forum started yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa. The forum sees more than 1,500 data experts from more than 100 countries, with the goal of forming a broad consensus on how to harness the power of data for sustainable development.
The UN along with the South African government came together to arrange the four-day gathering which hopes to gather support for a new global action plan according to the UN.
In a historic UN summit in 2015, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda. One of the key components of the agenda is the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which came into force on 1 January 2016, and which set out new 15-year targets for global efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.
“The Forum comes at a crucial time for strengthening data and statistical capacity globally. Countries all around the world are mobilizing to carry out the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Wu Hongbo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, told a press conference at the opening of the Forum.
“To do so, it is essential to have accurate, reliable, timely and disaggregated data. We need to track the unprecedented range of economic, social and environmental goals that are integrated under sustainable development.” This according to Mr Wu, will require the government, private sector, scientific and academic communities to work together.
The Forum will preview the Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data, which over the past year has been prepared by a high-level group of experts responsible for statistics and data policy in their countries.
The Plan calls for a governments, policy leaders and the international community to commit to undertake key actions under six strategic areas, including: coordination and leadership; innovation and modernization of national statistical systems; dissemination of data on sustainable development; building partnerships; and mobilizing resources. It will be formally approved by the UN Statistical Commission at its 48th session in March this year.
Jeff Radebe, the Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, and Chairperson of the National Planning Commission of South Africa, said open government cannot succeed without open data that is freely accessible to all citizens, and that “numbers will form the bedrock of a better life for all.”
According to the Forum’s organizers, the event will also provide an opportunity for major producers and users of data and statistics to come together to launch new initiatives and innovative solutions that will deliver better data on health, education, income, environmental indicators and other aspects of sustainable development.
The substantive part of the Forum will start on Monday, with close to 100 sessions and parallel events scheduled through Wednesday, including data labs and interactive knowledge-sharing spaces, as well as more traditional keynote speeches and panel discussions.