Historic launch of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data

marshall_ma_smallThis post is provided by Xaiogang (Marshall) Ma, a core member of the CODATA Early Career Data Professionals Group (ECDP). He was the winner of one of the inaugural World Data System Stewardship Awards at SciDataCon 2014. Marshall is an Associate Research Scientist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, specialising in Semantic eScience and Data Science. Check out his RPI Homepage here.

An information email in early September from Simon Hodson, the CODATA Executive Director, attracted my deep interest. His email was about the high-level political launch for the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. I was interested because I have worked on Open Data in the past few years and the experience shows that Open Data is far more than a purely technical issue. I was excited to see that there would be such an event initiated by political partners and focusing on social impacts. I am grateful for the support from the CODATA Early Career Data Professionals Working Group, which made it possible for me to head to New York City to attend the forum in person on September 28th.

The forum was held in the Jade Room of the Waldorf Astoria hotel, and lasted for three hours from 2 to 5PM, with a tight but well-organized schedule of about 10 lightning talks, four panels and about 30 commitment introductions from the partners. The panels and lightning talks focused on why open data is needed, how to make data open and, especially, what and the value of Open Data for The 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development and the social impact that the data can generate. I was happy to see that successful stories of Open geospatial data were mentioned several times in the lightening talks and the panels. For example, delegates from the World Resources Institute presented the Global Forest Watch-Fires, which provides near-real time information from various resources that can enable people to take prompt response before the fire runs out of control. During the partner introductions, I heard more exciting news about the actions that the stakeholders in governments, academia, industry and non-profit organizations are going to take to support the joint efforts of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. For example, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation will invest $20m to improve data on coverage of nutrition interventions and other key indicators by 2020 in several countries; the DigitalGlobe commits to provide three countries with evaluation licenses to their BaseMap service as well as training sessions for human resources; the Planet Labs commits $60 million in geospatial imagery to support the global community; and the William and flora Hewlett Foundation is proposing to commit about $3m to the start-up support of the secretariat for a Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. A list of the current partners is accessible on the partnership’s website here.

Image from globalgoals.orgThe Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data has a long-term vision for 2030: a world in which everyone is able to engage in solving the world’s greatest problems by (1) Effectively Using Data and (2) Fostering Trust and Accountability in the Sharing of Data. The pioneering partners in this effort have already committed to deliver more than 100 data driven projects worldwide to pave the pathway for the vision for 2030. For the first year, the partnership will work together to achieve these goals: (1) Improve the Effective Use of Data, (2) Fill Key Data Gaps, (3) Expand Data Literacy and Capacity, (4) Increase Openness and leverage of Existing Data, and (5) Mobilize Political Will and Resources.

historic_launch_prof_sanjeev_khagram_shorten_lightenThe forum was chaired by Prof. Sanjeev Khagram, with over 200 attendees from various backgrounds. The diversity of the attendees was partly reflected in the result of an online poll during the forum, which asked the participant to choose which goal that better data will make the most difference (see the result in the photo below).

historic_launch_online_poll_shortenDuring the reception time after the forum, I had a brief chat with Prof. Khagram about CODATA and also the Early Career Data Professionals Working Group, as well as the potential collaborations. He informed me that the partnership is open and invites broad participation to address the sustainable development goals. Prof. Khagram also mentioned that a bigger event, the World Data Forum, will take place in 2016. I also had the opportunity to catch up with Dr. Bob Chen from CIESIN, Columbia University about recent activities. It seems that ‘climate change’ is the topic of focus for several conferences in the year 2015, such as the International Scientific Conference, the Research Data Alliance Sixth Plenary Meeting and the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and Paris is the city for all these three events.

marshall_ma_zoomedThe report A World That Counts: Mobilising The Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, prepared by the United Nation Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, provides more background information about the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data.

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