With one of the world’s fastest shrinking populations, Serbia is set to face a quarter loss of its population by 2050.
To tackle this issue, traditional data sources such as census data are proving incapable of capturing the changes fast enough.
What is needed is up-to-date and timely statistics on migration.
With one of the world’s fastest shrinking populations, Serbia is set to face a quarter loss of its population by 2050. To tackle this issue, traditional data sources such as census data are proving incapable of capturing the changes fast enough. What is needed is up-to-date and timely statistics on migration.
Alternative sources of data, such as social media, present a mass resource of information that can be harnessed for national goals as well as the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Following the UN World Data Forum 2021, the SDG Knowledge Hub is sharing stories that illustrate data as a tool for social impact. A migration tracker, supported by the UN Development Programme, UN Population Fund, and the GIZ in Serbia, is a clear representation of that.
This tracker employs Facebook Ad data to measure emigration trends. By using social network data as a proxy for the number of Serbian emigrants and rate of migration, it revealed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of Serbian emigration decreased likely due to the closure of borders. Moreover, this solution validates the Facebook data by correlating it with the official statistics and developing a regression model that considers both demographic statistics and Facebook penetration rates.
Drasko Draskovic, the Head of Exploration of the UNDP Accelerator Lab, expressed that there should be a “risk appetite” for alternative data sources that are closer to real-time for both information gathering and interventions. He added that, “it’s not a question whether we should use alternative data sources to complement official data, but how.” In this case, social networks data is presented in an anonymous and disaggregated fashion i.e., by gender, age, education, marital status – key to ensure no one is left behind as we work to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The potential is great. With continued use and optimization, it provides an avenue for better identification of the drivers of change in migration dynamics, i.e., pandemics, economic disturbances, wars, environmental changes etc. Notably, Draskovic revealed that the Serbian National Statistical Office has already expressed interest in utilizing the project as a supplement to their official statistics for future migration estimates.
It’s crucial not to understate the role of migrants in the push for sustainable development. With optimal and inclusive measurements of migrant flow, it can positively inform government policy and ultimately, the progress of the SDGs.
For more information on the Migration Tracker, visit Leveraging Social Networks To Track Migration.
This article was written with support from the UN World Data Forum Secretariat. Read additional SDG Knowledge Hub stories about the UN World Data Forum, data impact, and news.