New Gender Equality and Big Data Report Takes Stock of Innovation Efforts to Close Gender Gaps

Felicia Vacarelu, Communications Officer, UN Global Pulse
Mar 8, 2018

Photo Credit:HuffPost

With a growing number of gender-related data innovation efforts, there are emerging opportunities for ensuring gender equality in achieving the SDGs. Most recently, UN Women and UN Global Pulse released a report looking at how big data analytics can help close the gender divide. The report is the result of an ongoing collaboration focused on big data innovation at UN Women. 

Gender data gaps are multiple and intersectional, ranging from gender-based violence, to maternal mortality, to income inequality, to voter turnout, to employment. Although efforts are being made to close these gaps through more thorough data collection and disaggregation, many persist - even despite the simultaneous explosion of new data sources emerging from new technologies. Big data generators such as credit card or mobile phone use, social media and satellite imagery are already being used to some extent to inform mainstream development efforts.

Closing the gender data gaps will require political will, technical capacities and resources, and a better understanding of the opportunities presented by big data. Concrete examples from around the world are needed that show how collecting and using big data can lead to positive outcomes. 

The “Gender Equality and Big Data” report examines successes and challenges in the use of big data and analytics to improve the lives of women and girls. It highlights data innovation efforts across the UN system to, for example, gauge the volume of conversation around pregnancy and contraception; or reveal opinions expressed on radio around the delivery of healthcare services; or analyse sentiment regarding discrimination in the workplace. 

“In the past, we worked with Global Pulse to understand how we can best use big data and analytics to fill in some of the missing information about  the wellbeing of women and girls,” says Navin Haram, Programme Specialist at UN Women.

“A significant proportion of the gender equality indicators across the SDGs lack data, and the fact that women and girls aren’t widely represented in national and international data systems remains a problem. We need updated information that reflects the lived realities of women and men, boy and girls to monitor progress. With this report, we wanted to take stock of efforts already in place and identify new opportunities where we can expand our collaboration with Global Pulse. What we need is a gender responsive data revolution, he adds.”  

The report is the result of an extensive literature review of existing innovation projects and tools, interviews with colleagues working in the field of big data and gender, and answers to a short questionnaire posed to six UN Women country offices.

“Empowering women and girls is one of the smartest ways to achieve the SDGs. When women and girls are empowered, families, communities, and societies prosper, economies grow, and development becomes more sustainable. We need more data about women and more data for women” says Josiane Toundzi, Policy and Inter-agency Affairs Coordinator for UN Global Pulse and contributor to the report. “Emerging technologies such as big data and AI, can help make the invisible, visible and offer opportunities for both programme planning, and measuring impact.”

The collaboration is a continuation of UN Women and Global Pulse’s commitment to partner on gender and big data. It joins a fast growing pool of innovation efforts that make use of data and analytics to improve the health, education, economic opportunity, political participation and security of women and girls around the world. 

Gender Equality and Big Data. Making Gender Data Visible