By Anastasia Valeeva

Now that you know how we kicked-off the cross-regional Data Innovation Project, let’s see what we have learned from it. Generally, the teams had to scale down some of their technological ambitions to be able to scale up the project. Stakeholder mapping helped them realize other actors which might bring a better reach-out of the knowledge on methodology and its limitations, and where they could get the technical capabilities they did not have internally. They agreed that bringing external expertise alone is not enough, and more needs to be done for institutional capacity building.  Here is a little teaser from Sudan, Albania and India to give a sense of how we are venturing into the unknown with Tier III.

Staying Agile while Measuring Goal 16 in Sudan

The need for evidence-based decision making at all levels of government is perhaps greatest in fragile settings, argues the latest research on data-driven decision making, referring to Sudan. Data deficiencies create constraints in government’s capacity to provide basic services, public security, and the rule of law. Part of this gap is the data about people’s experience with public services. This is why our Sudan team was one of three country offices that worked on SDG 16.6.2: proportion of the population satisfied with their last experience of public services. Before coming to the event, they were thinking of using mobile phone data, exit polls, household surveys.

Photo: Anisha from UNDP Sudan (second from the left) on a joint table working on SDG 16

Day one was a reality check for them in many ways. As Anisha from UNDP Sudan said, the team could elaborate a joint vision of “what is doable, where we can downsize and where we can upscale, even within the pilot, and also who are the other stakeholders that we would require to make this pilot first of all”. Thus, in terms of technology Sudan decided to narrow down to mobile phone  and SMS data collection, but at the same time upscaled to include the community radio which is important when it comes to reaching rural areas.

In the action plan that the team delivered on the second day, they aim first to bring together all the necessary stakeholders – state line ministries, governance advisor, radio station, telecom, data analysis experts – for the pilot, and collate the already existing data. Next, they are going to design the data collection experiment – elaborate the questionnaire in terms of keeping it friendly according to the means of data collection, be it SMS or radio; and appealing for respondents – which is a risk factor and may need incentives for the population.

What’s the Real Contribution of Tourism to Sustainable Jobs in Albania?

Tourism and travel contribute 8.4 percent, or 1 billion USD, to Albania’s economy; a figure that is set to rise to 10.8 percent of total GDP by 2027.  And with 2017 being the year of sustainable tourism, it is no wonder that our team in Albania chose indicator  8.9.2 – Proportion of jobs in sustainable tourism industries out of total tourism jobs. Their initial idea was to combine lots of innovative data collection methods such as remote sensing, satellite decoding and social media analysis to triangulate all of  this for new insights on the topic.

Photo: Albanian team filling out a guide to Data Innovation for Development 

It took less than a day of being exposed to other insights for the team to realise they have more in-house data than they thought. To understand the number of jobs in sustainable tourism, the Albania team will combine ground truth data, from existing official sources and surveys on the number of employees and electricity bills, as a sustainability proxy, with data from and tripadvisor so that they can extrapolate the findings to the entire population of hotels available online.

An analysis like that not only tells us how many sustainable tourism jobs exist, but will also shine light on the real extent to which it contributes to the economy. Juxtaposed with official data, we will also be able to understand the scale of informality.

Bringing the Right  Partners on Board to Reduce Impact of Invasive Alien Species

According to scientific research, nearly half of India’s geographical landmass is prone to invasion by alien plant species which are considered a threat to local biodiversity and are estimated to trigger annual economic losses amounting to US$ 116 billion for the country, more than a third of a global figure.

To contribute to the solution of this problem, India’s team has worked on the target 15.8: By 2020, introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species.

The team struggled with the issue on how to bring your key stakeholders on board to address a key challenge in an innovative way. So rather than access to data, they were looking for ways to have access to decision-maker.

Photo: Swastik from UNDP India working with expert in AI Ji Kim Lukas from Qatar Computing Research Institute

The second day brought concrete ideas on reaching out to different stakeholders: the action plan includes engaging forest statistician to map the stakeholder ecosystem of government and research institutions with baseline data to determine the level of its disaggregation, granularity, quality, and periodicity. Also, they plan to reach out to academics who are doing research on using remote sensing and GIS to track invasive alien species. This would allow  to determine the scope of the possible result, but also limitations for this methodology. In addition, team would reach out to the forest research institutes and other environment tracking systems to see if data can be triangulated.

This should result in a much more realistic pilot for testing the methodology on a specific protected area for which baseline data is available by Forest Survey of India.


That’s all from us for now. Stay tuned for the updates on how these and other teams progress on their data innovation projects!