unctad.org | The Big (Data) Bang: What will it mean for compiling SDG indicators?
The Big (Data) Bang: What will it mean for compiling SDG indicators?
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UNCTAD Research Paper No. 23

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In March 2017 the United Nations Statistical Commission adopted a measurement framework for the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, comprising of 232 indicators designed to measure the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their respective 169 targets.

The scope of this measurement framework is so ambitious it led Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the UN General Assembly, to describe it as an 'unprecedented statistical challenge'.

Following partial success in compiling Millennium Development Goal indicators, where after 15 years, only two-thirds of the indicators were populated, statisticians are wondering, whether in the absence of some dramatic change, will the result for the SDG framework be any better? Could big data be that dramatic change?

This paper outlines the opportunities, challenges and governance issues involved with big data from the perspective of producing SDG indicators. In particular the paper will examine some of the challenges surrounding access, and for confidentiality and privacy.


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