World Data Forum Discusses Data Science, Platforms, Privacy and Finance
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Over 2,000 participants gathered in Dubai to discuss challenges and opportunities for harnessing the power of data and monitoring to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs.

The Dubai Declaration, which was announced at the conclusion of the event, calls for the establishment of an innovative funding mechanism.

24 October 2018: Participants at the second UN World Data Forum convened in 85 panel discussions to consider issues related to six themes: innovations and synergies across different “data ecosystems”; leaving no one behind; building trust in data and statistics; how far have we come?; understanding the world through data; and new approaches to capacity development for better data.

The Forum brought over 2,000 registered participants together from 22-24 October 2018, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was hosted by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA) of the UAE, with support from the Statistics Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), under the guidance of the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) and the High-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (HLG-PCCB).

Throughout the three-day event, representatives from national statistical offices (NSOs), international organizations, and civil society organizations, along with data scientists from the private sector and academia discussed challenges and opportunities for harnessing the power of data and monitoring to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Speakers highlighted that data science projects require diverse teams, including mathematicians who understand the numbers, data engineers who understand math and can translate it into code, and designers with business intelligence. The need for data scientists to understand their responsibilities and requirements for data security and privacy were also highlighted. Speakers addressed the question of whether NSOs will still exist in 2030, suggesting that they will due to their consistency over time and space, high standards for accuracy, and independence.

Several panels highlighted the role of data stories in conveying messages regarding statistical data. Panels also discussed the platforms that are used to organize data, and artificial intelligence (AI) and other advances to collect or evaluate data. On the importance of AI, one speaker said AI will not replace leaders, but leaders that use AI will replace leaders that do not use it.

In addition, a number of initiatives were announced and several publications were launched, including a report titled, ‘Data Interoperability: A Practitioner’s Guide to Joining up Data in the Development Sector.’ The guide proposes a roadmap for use by data managers in development organizations and governments to assess the degree to which their systems are interoperable.

At the conclusion of the Forum, the Dubai Declaration was announced. The Declaration focuses on the theme, ‘Supporting the Implementation of the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data.’ The Cape Town Global Action Plan emerged from the first UN World Data Forum, in January 2017. Through the Declaration, participants at the second UN World Data Forum resolved to ensure that quality, relevant, timely, open and disaggregated data “by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migration status, disability and geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts” are made available and accessible to all users. The Dubai Declaration also calls for the establishment of an innovative funding mechanism.

The third UN World Data Forum will convene in Bern, Switzerland, in October 2020. [IISD Reporting Services coverage of the meeting]


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