More than 5,000 data experts from over 100 countries meet to tackle COVID-19

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As demand for trusted, inclusive, open and reliable data is surging in the face of unprecedented challenges, the global community of data experts and users will come together from October 19 to 21 in a virtual space at the United Nations World Data Forum to satisfy the need for quality data. 

Over 5,000 data experts from more than 100 countries are expected to participate in the three-day Forum where they will work to identify innovative solutions for better data, intensify cooperation on data for sustainable development and renew the urgent call for more and better funding for data.

Participants from Governments, the private sector, civil society, the geospatial community, international agencies, donor and philanthropic bodies, academia and professional bodies, and the media will discuss ways to improve the use of data for policy making and the development of COVID-19 response measures. They will also identify strategies to protect privacy and trust in data, and solutions to improve data availability and to fulfill the ambition of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. 

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The virtual forum will reflect on how the global data community has responded to the data demands in the context of COVID-19.  It will also emphasize the importance of quality data and statistical systems to better respond to future shocks and disasters, and will urge renewed political and financial commitment to improve data in all countries.

“Recovering better from COVID-19 must be underpinned by quality data that tell us where we have been falling short. It is trusted data that allow us to see if we are heading in the right direction. More importantly, it is critical to leverage data and statistics to ensure that no one is left behind,” said Mr. Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who heads the Secretariat for the Forum. 

“The 2020 virtual UN World Data Forum builds upon the momentum generated at the Forums in Cape Town and Dubai and provides a unique opportunity to identify solutions for better data and better financing for the development of data and statistical systems,” he added.

The virtual Forum is hosted on an interactive platform that will give people around the world the opportunity to join and contribute. High-level leaders will open the forum on 19 October with interventions by the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, the Federal Councillor of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Home Affairs Alain Berset, the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Mark Suzman, and other special guests to be announced.

Core issues

The programme, articulated over three high-level plenary sessions, 30 live-streamed parallel sessions and over 30 pre-recorded sessions as well as virtual exhibits, will cover six main areas agreed by the organizing committee: 

  • New approaches to building and financing national capacity for better data; 
  • Bringing data sources together and furthering the integration of non-traditional data sources; 
  • Leveraging data and statistics to ensure visibility and voice for everyone, leaving no one behind; 
  • Increasing data and statistical literacy and communication; 
  • Building trust in data and statistics, including by applying data principles and governance to new and existing data sources and implementing open data practices; 
  • Reviewing how far we have come in implementing the Cape Town Global Action Plan and the Dubai Declaration, and in addressing emerging challenges. 

The UN World Data Forum is organized by the High-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with substantial support from the World Data Forum Programme Committee, under the guidance of the UN Statistical Commission and in close consultation with Member States, international partners and other stakeholders. 

The Statistics Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs supports the organization of the Forum in its role as Secretariat of the High-level Group, the Programme Committee and the Statistical Commission. 

The virtual Forum is supported by the Swiss Confederation, with substantive help from the Federal Statistical Office, who will host the next physical meeting of the World Data Forum scheduled to take place in Bern on 3-6 October 2021.

The first UN World Data Forum was hosted from 15 to 18 January 2017 by Statistics South Africa in Cape Town, South Africa. The second Forum was hosted by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority of the United Arab Emirates from 22 to 24 October 2018 in Dubai.

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