Remarks of Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J Mohammed

During the Opening of the World Data Forum, Amina J Mohammed said that “We live during a time of unprecedented challenge – but, equally, unprecedented and massive opportunity” and that the 2030 Agenda is the “blueprint” for addressing these challenges and seizing the opportunities. Nevertheless, more and better data is required for achieving the SDGs which will help to identify the most appropriate solutions for sustainable development. 

In 2017 the cost of natural disasters was US$330 billion. Better data can help to avoid some of these losses while data on disaster preparedness and early warning systems can save lives and livelihoods. 

There are other benefits from robust and accessible data and information. For example students can find out about job opportunities and women can learn about laws protecting them from discrimination. They can assist citizens in monitoring government performance and in holding decision-makers to account. 

The data revolution, although it is having an enormous impact, has not benefited everyone equally. Natural disasters have affected the lives of more than 460 million people in Africa since 1970 and many lives and livelihoods could have been saved with better data and forecasting. There is a lack of gender disaggregated data on violence against women in more than two thirds of countries. 

Data must be harnessed to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda at all levels and in all regions and countries. This is why the United Nations is leading global efforts to integrate data and information systems. 

The Open Data Hub for the Sustainable Development Goals allows countries to bring together different data sources, integrated with geospatial information, for evidence- based decision-making and advocacy. The global SDG indicator website gives users access to all available global data and enables them to see interactive stories about progress on implementing the 2030 Agenda. And, UN Global Pulse works to harness big data to accelerate sustainable development and humanitarian action globally. 

The UN system is working to build the statistical capacity of countries to improve the timeliness and quality of data and statistics on the SDGs, in part through a new global network of statistical training institutions. And inThe Hague the United Nations Centre for Humanitarian Data is increasing the impact and use of data throughout the humanitarian sector, so that aid workers around the world can access data to make fast, life-saving, informed decisions. The UN is also partnering with the World Bank on ID4D, allowing us to ensure with biometrics that we leave no one behind from birth. 

Examining the broader implications of the data revolution means establishing ethical norms, data privacy and data protection frameworks, so that data can be used safely and responsibly for the public good. 

In July this year, the Secretary-General launched a High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation with harnessing the benefits of emerging technologies, as its remit, including issues of data literacy, data privacy and the digital divide, while avoiding the unintended negative consequences of technological innovation, such as job losses and the erosion of workers’ rights. 

Funding for data and statistical systems remains limited and there is also a need for political, technical and advocacy support in all areas. In addition, it is essential to develop data literacy, innovative tools and data visualization platforms to allow users to understand data intuitively and interact seamlessly with data in real time. 

For delivering for people and communities UN country teams of the future must be fully equipped with the right skills and capacities to harness the opportunities offered by all types of data and innovation, including emerging technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics and drones. The availability of disaggregated and local-level data must also be improved.

Local governments, civil society groups, and businesses, meanwhile, are developing innovative tools and technologies to improve the availability of detailed local-level data. For example, across Asia, Africa and South America, women are using crowdsourcing to map the safety of the streets and public spaces in their communities. 

Data innovators should work together with the United Nations to improve the availability and use of disaggregated and local data to harness the power of data safely and responsibly to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and bring about a world where no one, absolutely no one, is left behind. 

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