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Communications of the ACM

Arab World special section: Big trends

Non-Traditional Data Sources: Providing Insights into Sustainable Development

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The world is facing enormous challenges, ranging from climate change to extreme poverty. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)a were adopted by United Nations Member States in 2015 as an operational framework to address these challenges. The SDGs include No Poverty, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, among others, as well as a meta goal on Partnerships for the Goals. Despite limitations,7 the SDGs form a rare global consensus of all 193 UN member states on where we should collectively be heading.

Goals are meaningless without a way to track their progress. Data on the SDGs and the associated indicatorsb are often outdated or unavailable, hindering progress during the Decade of Action leading up to 2030.c Challenges around rapid access to data have also become apparent in the context of, for example, the Sudan revolution (public sentiment) or the Beirut explosion in August 2020 (infrastructure damage). The paucity of data has been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, with its sudden impact on all aspects of life, most of which have yet to be quantified. Going beyond availability, accessibility, and timeliness, there is a need for more disaggregated data, such as by gender and town.


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