Dr. Claire Melamed is the Executive Director of Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), where she leads efforts to collaborate on leveraging data to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In 2014, she was seconded to the UN Secretary General’s Office to be the Head of Secretariat and lead author for “A World That Counts,” the UNSG’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on The Data Revolution.
So Claire, how important is having mobile data to the GPSDD?
|Figure 1: Global collaboration using Big Data is crucial for reaching the SDGs.|
What characteristics do you look for in the telcos that you work with as key factors in success for the partnership? Such as having a CDO, a data monetization process already in place or other factors.
But what we really look for is just a desire to engage and a willingness to experiment. One of the things which is so exciting is the range of models that are emerging for that experimentation to take place.
There has been a lot of talk in the media about the SDGs being under threat with everything going on politically in the world right now. Do you think these movements that we’re seeing around the world will slow down the push towards more open data and more data awareness in the political realm?
|Figure 2: GPSDD works to leverage data around the world in support of the SDGs.|
What were you doing before you joined GPSDD?
You joined GPSDD in October 2016. What are you proudest of in your time there so far?
Both of those trips left me with a really strong sense of the power of the global brokering network and what it is we can do with it in working with partners.
Would you say that the partnerships you can form through GPSDD have more value for developing countries, or is it rather a matter of different use cases for each country?
|Figure 3: The East Africa Open Data Conference is an example of GPSDD’s work (photo: GPSDD)|
Does this leapfrogging tendency that you are seeing have to do with cost, speed or for the sake of innovation?
One of the huge benefits of Big Data, and telco data in particular, is speed and being able to know what is happening now.
Traditionally, many low-income countries have relied on survey data to track outcomes such as health outcomes, population movement and things like that. But when you do a survey, sometimes you don’t get the results for two or three years. So some of the experiments that are being done to address this are using mobile phone top ups as a proxy for poverty data, meaning that you can get a reasonably accurate map of poverty in your country every day, whereas traditionally governments are used to seeing a two- to three-year timeline on that.
Finally, what would be your wish in going forward with partnerships in order to make things happen faster and more effectively?
What are the institutional, legal, and regulatory changes that can be made to help that data flow faster? There are also the investment challenges. What are the political arguments that can be used to encourage governments to invest in the capacity they need?
When I was in Kenya, some of the government departments that I met had really constrained capacity. They only had one or two highly qualified statisticians in the central department and even fewer out in the districts. So in those cases, even if they did get access to loads and loads of data, it would not be massively useful because they would not be able to actually get the insights from it.