Data Is At The Centre Of The Global Agenda
What is the global agenda?
In 2015, 193 Member States of the United Nations agreed on a plan of action -- for people, prosperity, planet and peace -- to address some of the biggest challenges of today’s world. A global agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, was defined. World leaders embarked on a collective journey to address issues of poverty, inequality, infringements of human rights, hunger, resilience, and humanitarian crises that affect millions and millions of people. Recognizing the fragility of our planet, they also vowed to address climate change and to support climate action initiatives, commitments and partnerships for a healthier planet.
To achieve this agenda, countries defined 17 goals (the Sustainable Development Goals - SDGs). A total of 169 ambitious targets and 232 indicators were drawn up to measure progress towards achieving the SDGs.
Data is at the centre of the 2030 Agenda!
Digital data today is being generated all over the world, every second of every minute. As we go about our daily lives, buying and selling goods on the Internet, using mobile phones to stay in touch with each other and with world events, or financial services for transactions, we generate massive amounts of digital data and leave behind digital footprints. These data can be collected and analysed to provide solutions that support sustainable development and humanitarian action.
Yet, some would argue that only part of the world’s population generates digital data, which is creating a digital divide. My view on this is that the digital divide has been around for at least the last two decades and is still present in some parts of the world and among some population groups.
But the situation is changing rapidly. Why is it changing?
First, there is an exponential growth of access to digital devices in most parts of the world, in most societies and among most population groups. This has resulted into the “Digital Revolution” as described in the “A world that counts – Mobilizing The Data Revolution for Sustainable Development”, report by the UN Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group.
Access to digital devices is growing faster than access to clean water or access to decent jobs. For example, Internet penetration in Italy has been steadily growing and has now reached 90%. In Africa, while the percentage is lower, 35%, the growth in recent years has been exponential. In fact, Africa's claim to be the "mobile continent" is even stronger than previously thought, with researchers predicting internet use on mobile phones will increase 20-fold in the next five years – double the rate of growth in the rest of the world.
It is true that many people around the world still live a life far from digital devices. But this reality is changing rapidly. In Uganda, where Pulse Lab Kampala is headquartered, pastoralists in Karamoja -- a Northern region of the country -- now keep their savings in a mobile money account. And how do they access this account? They might not own a mobile phone, but they keep the SIM cards with them (they sew them into their clothes to keep them safe) so that they can perform digital transactions.