Road to Bern: Non-traditional data sources for sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean

Jul 29, 2021

Non-traditional data sources have become essential since 2015, when the United Nations presented the data revolution as a way to promote the production of data and its use, for countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda. 


Context and objective

The annual UN World Data Forum brings together data experts and users, statesmen, governments, civil society, private sector, philanthropy and media, among others, to drive innovation, and build the path to better data for sustainable development. This year, Switzerland will host the forum to be held on October 03 to 06, looking forward to the five regional commissions participation through the Road to Bern initiative. 




Promoting the use of non-traditional data sources for Official Statistics in Latin America and the Caribbean is a cooperative effort between statistical data producers, governments and civil society. Therefore, in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda, all sustainable development stakeholders must be involved.


Aware of this, Cepei and the National Administrative Department of Statistics of Colombia (DANE), developed a strategy to promote the use of data for development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The series of five webinars, in collaboration with the Swiss Confederation and the Road to Bern initiative, aims to strengthen the commitment of public and private sector actors to generate timely and quality data.


The first webinar of the series was held in April 2021 and featured the participation of some of the region’s Statistical Offices and civil society organizations. The second webinar shared tools and experiences on how to integrate traditional data sources -such as administrative records- with non-traditional data sources -big data, deep learning and machine learning- for better decision-making. 

Key points of the intervention

Cepei was invited to strengthen the region’s preparatory process for the UN World Data Forum for civil society, governments and the private sector to have a voice around the use of data and the follow-up of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda. In Latin America and the Caribbean, this process will focus on five cross-cutting thematic pillars:  

  • Leaving no one behind
  • Data for accountability
  • The use of new data sources and official statistics
  • Financing data for decision-making
  • Producing gender statistics

“This webinars series allows Latin America and the Caribbean to be well represented at the UN World Data Forum, because the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be measured,” said Christine Büsser Mauron, Deputy Head of Mission of the Swiss Embassy in Colombia


Bertrand Loison, Director of the Data Science Center at the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, shared the needs that arose around the country’s official statistics and how through the creation of a data innovation strategy and its pilot projects, they augmented and complemented statistics with non-traditional methods. 


“The abundance of data has created new opportunities to measure sustainable development. Non-traditional data sources complements official statistics to close information gaps,” said Paloma Merodio, Vice President of INEGI; who also invited to learn about Mexico’s Geospatial Data Cube, a deep learning platform that allows decision making on SDG 6 (Water and sanitation), 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) and 15 (Life on Land).


From Brazil, Eduardo Luiz Gonçalves Rios, Director of IBGE, mentioned that the institute “supports research on big data to improve results accuracy and strengthen cooperation with statistics producers in the region”.


The Director of DANE, Juan Daniel Oviedo, reaffirmed his commitment to continue working on the Data For Now initiative, together with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), the United Nations Statistics Division (UNStats), the World Bank and Cepei, as it has been an opportunity for officials to develop technological capacities and thus contribute to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals. 


The closing remarks were made by Rolando Ocampo, Director of the Statistics Division of ECLAC: “if statistical offices are not using administrative records and big data, it will be difficult for governments to make decisions and build appropriate public policies”. 


Stay tuned to the upcoming webinars of the series on Cepei and DANE’s social media networks.

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