A general overview of big data for sustainable development in Colombia

This Cepei document explores the reasons why big data is constituted as an economic and efficient alternative to close information gaps, making it an essential non-traditional data source for the measurements of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Margarita Vaca

June 20, 2019

Find references to big data for sustainable development, the context of big data in Colombia, and the importance of data sources for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

This research exposes the context of sustainable development, addressing the existing information sources in Colombia for the implementation of the SDGs.

  • Colombia has an open data initiative championed by its government. Our document shows projects that have become useful tools for decision making in the country, through the use of unofficial sources of information.
  • The veracity of the information of big data has been criticized. However, possibilities to analyze the methodologies used for reading, visualizing and analyzing this data used by the private sector, academia and civil society have not been explored. Nor have they offered recommendations for its improvement and articulation with official statistics.
Source: David Newhouse et al. (2017)

Data is a basic input for decision making at all levels. But many countries face problems when it comes to collecting, processing, analyzing and disseminating it, because of the very high investment of resources needed for this purpose. That is why the use of new technological tools and unofficial sources of information, such as big data, offers inexpensive, efficient and innovative alternatives.

Our document seeks to explore the progress in the use of big data, and other non-official information sources, in Colombia. This demonstrates that the impact in generating spaces that promote the use of big data for sustainable development has been broad in this country. Evidence is also presented that shows the commitment in generating an environment that encourages the use of open data and big data, especially with initiatives championed by the government itself and based on public policies.

The context of the use of open data in Colombia is presented, by tracing a path that introduces the terms of sustainable development, big data and information sources. There is a panning of the state organizations in charge of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

This provides evidence of Colombia’s commitment in generating an environment conducive to the use of open data and big data, as well as its alignment with the SDGs. But it can also be concluded, that there is still a wide field of action to take advantage of, within in the potential of unofficial data sources and its role in helping reduce information gaps. And, although it is true that unofficial data sources, such as big data, have been criticized for the veracity of the data, no possibilities have been explored to analyze the methodologies carried out by the private sector, academia and civil society. Nor to offer recommendations for its improvement and future
articulation with official statistics.

Source: DNP, DSEPP5 (2017)

A call out is made to facilitate the construction of partnerships between different stakeholders for the creation of a big data implementation network for sustainable development. This should be seen as a tool to help strengthen the data measurement and monitoring systems of the SDGs, by expanding the levels of detail in the information, and how it can complement official data sources.


About the author

Margarita Vaca

Economist specialized in Applied Statistics and technical studies in business logistics and project management. Experience in statistical and econometric analysis, preparation of technical reports and formulation of indicators. Researcher of Data area of Cepei.