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On Geospatial Information and the Sustainable Development Goals

August 28, 2016 4 comments

In a white paper entitled Transforming Our World:  Geospatial Information Key to Achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable DevelopmentDigitalGlobe and Geospatial Media and Communications tie the need for geospatial data to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

On related topics, we have written about the UN resolution on geospatial data, and the UN Future Trends in geospatial information management, and in our book we wrote about the 8 Millennium Development Goals adopted by UN member states.  The white paper brings together some key connections between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and GIS.  The 17 goals include–no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation, and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace and justice/strong institutions, and partnerships to achieve the goals. The 17 SDGs and the 169 associated targets seek to achieve sustainable development balanced in three dimensions–economic, social, and environmental.  The article focuses on a topic that is central to this blog and our book--the need for data, specifically geospatial data, to monitor progress in meeting these goals but also to enable those goals to be achieved.

The report ties the success of the SDGs to the availability of geospatial data.  One finding of the report was that many countries had not implemented any sort of open data initiatives or portals, which is an issue we have discussed here and in our book.  The main focus of the report is to identify ways that countries and organizations can work on addressing the data gap, such as creating new data avenues, open access, mainstreaming Earth observation, expanding capacities, collaborations and partnerships, and making NSDIs (National Spatial Data Infrastructures) relevant.  For more information on the authors of the paper, see this press release by Geospatial World.

I especially like the report because it doesn’t just rest upon past achievements of the geospatial community to make its data holdings available to decision makers   To be sure, there have been many achievements.  But one thing we have been critical of in this blog in our reviews of some data portals is that many sound fine in press releases, but when a data user actually tries to use them, there are many significant challenges, including site sluggishness, limited data formats and insufficient resolution, and the lack of metadata about field names, to name a few.  The report also doesn’t mince words–there have been advancements, but the advancements are not coming fast enough for the decisions that need to be made.

The report’s main message is that the lack of available geospatial data is not just a challenge to people in the geospatial industry doing their everyday work, but that the lack of available geospatial data will hinder the achievement of the SDGs if not addressed fully and soon.

sdg_doc

White paper connecting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to geospatial information, from DigitalGlobe and Geospatial Media and Communications.

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