Statement at Using Data and Technology to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and Tackling Global Threats and Ensuring a Better Future for Us All

Delivered at United Nations General Assembly Side Event

Distinguished delegates,

As we enter the information age, data is an increasingly valuable currency. All around the world, masses of data are being produced. Every time we enter a public transit network, send a tweet, or make an online purchase we contribute to the daily generation of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. Storing this would require some 5 million laptops. Our use of such data is not keeping pace with the rate it is generated. Turning data into actionable and openly-accessible information, could provide us with the evidence-base to effectively implement and monitor the Sustainable Development Goals.

Technology is a fundamental enabler. As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution – a revolution that will be defined by technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum computing – more potential than ever before exists for technology to make sense of big data.

How we improve measurement, collection and use of data, and harness technology, will influence on the 2030 Agenda. Progressing the SDGs will be dependent on our ability to use data and technology to plug the measurement and information gaps and support evidence-based policymaking. I emphasize this, because the 2030 Agenda covers numerous policy areas which insufficiently covered by conventional official statistics. Policymakers must embrace the data revolution and shape frontier technologies to meet the SDGs. Practitioners must find creative and innovative ways to use novel data streams from multiple sources, to collate information that augments conventional official statistics.

Let me mention just a few examples of partnerships and innovations ESCAP is driving forward which are using data and technology to shape economy, society and environment.

First, the ESCAP treaty on Paperless Trade is supporting the switch from paper to electronic solutions simplifying trade processes, promoting transparency and increasing the security of trade operations through open trade data. Full implementation of this treaty can increase trade revenues in the Asia-Pacific region by as much as $250 billion each year.

Second, ESCAP is working to support governments across the region to improve their Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems. Innovations in this area include, mobile registration technology and linking civil registration to modern national ID systems using biometrics.

Third, ESCAP has been building the capacity of Asia-Pacific countries integrate statistics on natural resources and the environment. We are helping countries address the inter-disciplinary, inter-departmental and inter-sectoral nature challenges of environment statistics. And to bring the data already held on oceans together to establish Oceans Accounts.

Finally, space applications have great potential to support the data revolution. By combining satellite-derived data and ground-based information, it is possible to observe environmental changes over time. With socio-economic indicators, this can provide a layered and location-based approach to derive composite statistical information. Significant gaps still exist between the spacefaring countries and those who lack the capacity to access space information and tools. Through its Regional Space Applications Programme for Sustainable Development, ESCAP brings together space agencies to promote greater use of space technology and Geographic Information Systems for sustainable development. Our focus is on how space applications can support the SDGs and how this can be supported through regional cooperation.

ESCAP provides the platform for informing countries of big data developments and technology and sharing best practice. We are establishing a regional knowledge sharing facility for data scientists working with development data, and for data analysts in public policy departments. This will include the development of practical tutorials and training tools to guide users through the challenges of new technologies. We are aiming to launch this by the end of the year.

This is just a snapshot of some of our work in the field of data and technology. I look forward to our discussion today and to working with you to exploit the potential at the intersection of the data and technological revolutions.

Thank you.