Aditya Agrawal on The Data Revolution


Aditya Agrawal, director of data ecosystems development at the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data spoke about the Data Revolution and how it can be harnessed to aid in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

With 17 goals, 169 targets and more than 230 indicators, no one country could accomplish the goals on their own, which is where the global partnership comes in.  Many people consider Data the Oil of the 21st century, but there are a number of issues that have prevented countries from utilizing it effectively so far.  Data is not available, not dynamic, disaggregate and not open or accessible on many key issues, which is stifling progress.  One key approach that can overcome this is by utilizing alternate data sources, which is one of Aditya’s areas of focus.

 

Traditionally data mostly takes the form of national data, generated through censuses or national research, however, there is a lot more data and potential data that can be used.  Earth Observation Data, data from satellites has become more accessible than ever in the last decade, and countries are increasingly exploring ways to make this data usable.  Since there's so much data already available, 80% of the work is how to utilize it effectively.  Countries across the world have utilized what's called a Data Cube in order to present and make use of data.  By compressing thirty years of imagery data into a cube, trends and data can be readily accessed and analyzed.  

 

Another kind of Data that is being harnessed is Citizen Generated Data.  With more and more people having access to cell phones, there are hundreds of thousands of devices that can generate data points, for instance, campaigns coordinated by Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) have mapped tens of thousands of structures that were never mapped before.  

 

As countries work towards the Sustainable Development goals, access to open, transparent and reliable data is critical to ensuring success, but it’s clear that conventional data is not enough, particularly in regions where data is lacking.  Agrawal’s and others work to harness the power of alternate data is a powerful step forward to overcoming these challenges,  and with only a short 13 years till 2030 it’s coming just in time to have a substantial impact

 

 

-Zach Solomon