Participants noted that the demand for data and statistics are greater than ever, but they are in short supply in many parts of the world.
At the end of the Forum, the High-level Group launched the global data community’s response to COVID-19.
The response calls for increasing investments in data to respond more effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic and future disasters, and to address the "huge data gap" in informing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
The virtual UN World Data Forum took place over three days, with over 10,000 data producers and users from over 180 countries gathering to support the “ongoing evidence-based response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” as articulated in a statement launched at the conclusion of the Forum. Participants noted that the demand for data and statistics are greater than ever, but they are in short supply in many parts of the world.
The Forum was organized by the High‑level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity‑Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, under the guidance of the UN Statistical Commission, and with support from the UN Statistics Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
The Third World Data Forum was originally planned to take place in Bern, Germany, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that event has been postponed until 2021, and a reduced, virtual form of the Forum took place instead, from 19-21 October 2020.
In remarks to open the Forum, UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed said that while trillions are being spent in developed countries, “we need a fraction of that in developing countries” to make needed investments in data. According to a UN press release, results of the sessions included: lessons in using data to track and mitigate the impact of COVID‑19; new ideas on dealing with data privacy, data protection and security; use of maps and spatial data to improve the lives of communities and mapping of those locations that are still invisible; lessons from the use of AI algorithms; new understanding of how to use data in journalism; and the way ahead to increase funding for data and establish mechanisms for effective use of funding.
At the end of the Forum, the High-level Group launched the global data community’s response to COVID-19, titled, ‘Data for a changing world.’ The text, prepared by the HLG following a public consultation, highlights a shared response that includes:
- Create data to leave no one behind by continuing to develop disaggregation in data to mainstream gender equality, and define common standards and tools to ensure that everyone is counted;
- Promote data literacy while supporting the reduction of misinformation and disinformation;
- Maintain trust and privacy in data by protection in law, regulation and common practice, while ensuring transparency and accessibility to data that is of public interest;
- Develop capacity to modernize data systems not only at the national level, but also at the local and subnational levels, especially among lower-income and more vulnerable countries;
- Encourage the establishment of more data partnerships, whether public-public or public-private, to work on new data sources, tools and platforms to increase data availability and complement basic statistical infrastructure;
- Increase investments in data to respond more effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic and future disasters, and to address the “huge data gap” in informing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
DESA head Liu Zhenmin closed the Forum. He reported that DESA, the World Bank, and the five UN regional commissions’ statistics divisions launched the ‘Covid-19 Survey of National Statistical Offices’ in May 2020, and it is being conducted every two months to support national statistical and data systems with up-to-date information. Liu also highlighted the ‘Data for Now’ initiative, the Working Group on Big Data, and the Global Network of Data Officers and Statisticians launched by the UN Statistics Division on 20 October 2020.