Bringing together data, algorithms and insights for sustainable development

The planet is not currently on a sustainable path. In order to change the current trajectory requires transparency, inclusion and accountability. A shift in the global political economy of environmental data is needed to harness the efforts of public and private sectors to jointly generate high quality data and insights as a global public good while avoiding technology and data monopolies.

The global economy is changing and we will not be able to achieve the environmental SDGs or environmental sustainability without utilizing frontier technologies and integrated data. Social media networks are shaping consumer preferences and political outcomes across the globe. There is still an opportunity to change the current trajectory if we use data and information: to build awareness of the state of our planet, to influence consumer behaviour, to inform markets and to reform governance systems.

A global digital ecosystem for the environment has the potential to put us on a path toward a sustainable future. This will require action from citizens, governments, the private sector and intergovernmental organisations to collect and share data, process data and create analytical insights and information. Citizens must be engaged in using and collecting data. Countries must create a culture of data use, innovation and data governance for national data ecosystems. A private sector contribution related the sharing of data, algorithms and expertise is key. The UN can play a role to incubate and develop a global digital ecosystem which is built upon innovative partnerships across stakeholders. As the global entity responsible for the environment, UN Environment is responsible for leadership in developing an approach to govern the digital ecosystem for the environment as part of a broader sustainable development ecosystem and to bring existing environment related data into focus for policy making. This will be done through envisioning the role of different stakeholders in a digital ecosystem and through making data and information more accessible including through the Environment Situation Room and the MapX spatial data platform of UN Environment.

For more information contact:

– Shereen Zorba, Head of the Secretariat of the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment, Science Division, UN Environment, shereen.zorba@un.org
– David Jensen, Head of Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding, Co-Director of MapX, Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch, Policy and Programme Division, UN Environment, david.jensen@un.org
– Jillian Campbell, Chief Statistician, UN Environment, campbell7@un.org

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