Statistical and geospatial experts hear that better data means better lives

Better data can indeed make for better lives, delegates at the second Joint Meeting of UN-GGIM: Europe and European Statistical System (ESS) have heard.

Hosted by Eurostat and Chaired by Gunter Schäfer, its representative on UN-GGIM: Europe’s Executive Committee, the annual meeting is a unique opportunity for European statistical and geospatial experts to exchange ideas to further the work of UN-GGIM. Participants included European National Statistical Institutions (NSIs), National Mapping and Cadastral Authorities (NMCAs) and European geospatial and statistical organisations.

After an opening address by Eurostat Director, Marcel Jortay Chair of the Executive Committee of UN-GGIM: Europe, Bengt Kjellson gave an overview of its work and future plans. In this keynote, he also emphasised the value of geospatial information, coupled with statistical data, for measuring Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as well as in addressing other global challenges. Better data can indeed make for better lives, he concluded.

Eurostat’s Fritz Gebhard followed with a keynote on the SDG indicators and began by outlining the 17 goals and 169 targets. Delegates heard that the different levels of SDG monitoring – global, regional and national – require harmonised data derived from various official and alternative data from all countries. He observed that this poses a huge challenge.

Mr Gebhard also noted that the proposed global level indicator framework for the SDG play a key role in simplifying a complex reality but cautioned that it is vital users understand how these are constructed to avoid any oversimplification.

Eurostat’s second keynote speaker, Albrecht Wirthmann focused on harnessing Big Data in an era of ‘datafication’ and questioned how ubiquitous data collection and networking will impact on official statistics.

Eurostat is already participating in a number of initiatives, projects and pilots featuring Big Data which demonstrates how it can be a source of information for NSIs, for example using mobile phone data to estimate population density by grid cell.

Delegates were also updated on UN-GGIM: Europe’s work on core data and data integration by the two Working Group leads, François Chirié from France and Pier-Giorgio Zaccheddu from Germany before Olav Eggers from Denmark, which is leading a Task Team representing UN-GGIM as an observer to the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDG), took the floor for the final presentation.

Geospatial data is specifically mentioned in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and there has been much work to highlight how it can support official statistics in the monitoring of the goals. Mr Eggars noted that geospatial data can also contribute to e-monitoring of the 2030 Agenda at different levels – as data in themselves, to support statistical data, to further enrich statistical data, and finally for the geographical disaggregation of data.

A series of breakout sessions then followed the formal presentations. Reports from the groups, as well as other information from the meeting, can be found here.