Today — Friday, September 25, 2015 — is not just another Friday. It’s a remarkable day that will go down in history in every corner of the world. It’s the day that 193 world leaders are gathering at the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Summit 2015 to adopt 17 highly ambitious Sustainable Development Goals. With the ability to improve billions of people’s lives around the world, these goals are aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all by 2030.
On its website, the UN states: “For the goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society, and people like you.”
To ensure that “everyone” is doing their part, the UN is encouraging participating countries, private and public sector organizations, and everyday citizens to take part in an extensive worldwide week-long launch. There will be a wide array of events – from celebrity concerts, movie premieres, tweeting campaigns, and much more – with the hope of gaining the support of everyone around the globe.
As one example, a few inspiring individuals started Project Everyone, an independent organization that now has a wide range of supporters. Its mission is to communicate the UN’s Global Goals to 7 billion people around the world in 7 days, between September 26 and October 2.
Clearly, this is an initiative that the entire globe is embracing.
Big Data pivotal to a sustainable future
The UN recognizes that technology – and specifically data – will play a big role in the achievement of the sustainability goals. In fact, Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, recently made the statement that the data revolution is giving the world powerful tools that can help usher in a more sustainable future.
Certainly anyone involved in driving any of the sustainability goals will use data to monitor their path. They will use it to assess where they are today in relation to sustainability, where they want to be in 15 years, and what progress is made along the way.
But more importantly, data will be key to how the world gets there.
Collectively, there will be significant amounts of money – billions, in fact – invested to achieve the 17 goals over the course of the next 15 years. Having the right data and analytic tools will be imperative in ensuring that those investments are used wisely.
Using data to accelerate sustainability
To support the data revolution, a multi-stakeholder group of governments, civil society, private sector, international organizations, academic, statistical and data communities, and networks came together to form the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD). The official launch of this partnership is on Monday, September 28. Its mission is to support data-driven decision-making by catalyzing more open, new, and usable data.
As the GPSDD works toward this mission, it will help the world achieve the sustainability goals faster, more effectively, and with long-term impact through initiatives and actions such as:
- Strengthening country data-ecosystems
- Filling critical data gaps
- Improving data literacy and capacity
- Increasing data openness, sharing, and leveraging
- Mobilizing and aligning resources
- Reinforcing and catalyzing principles and protocols
Big Data already making a difference
There is no doubt that the use of data will have a widespread effect on sustainable development between now and 2030 as it helps the world address some of the most difficult challenges. High-quality, timely, and reliable data can pinpoint where poverty still exists and where young girls are violently mistreated. It can also depict where the greatest deforestation is occurring, and where cases of HIV/AIDS are still on the rise. In turn, the right data, at the right time, can spur on private investments in sustainable development and help rebuild failing economies.
Simply put, data will help everyone do their part in making the world a better place.
Here are a few examples of how data is already helping:
- “Made in A Free World” designations let customers know what goods are made without slavery, thus helping free more than 30 million people still enslaved today.
- The Barcode of Life organization is using DNA barcoding to discover and document every living creature on earth so that endangered species can be protected.
- Organizations such as the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation are using data visualizations and analytics experts to achieve goals such as eliminating deforestation, promoting environmental awareness, and improving the quality of life for thousands of people.
- Mobile, Big Data, and Internet of Things technologies are being used in smart cities around the globe like Barcelona to manage services and resources and improve citizens’ quality of life.
The chance to change history
On the UN Web site, Ki-moon says, “2015 is not just another year, it is a chance to change the course of history.” As an anchor partner in the Global Partnership, SAP is proud to be part of this change as we fulfill our vision and purpose to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. In addition to our technology leadership, we will facilitate our customers’ contributions through our application and technology portfolio. We will also offer our industry knowledge and business process expertise when and where needed to support the achievement of all 17 goals by 2030. We hope you and your organization will support this endeavor as well.
To be one of the 7 million people reached in 7 days, visit Project Everyone between September 26 and October 2. To understand the role data can play, discover where you can view The Human Face of Big Data documentary in the coming months. And, lastly, share how you plan to take part in sustainable development with David on Twitter @davidpjonker.
This article originally appeared on Digitalist Magazine, in the Improving Lives section. See here