The United Nations Global Working Group (GWG) on Big Data for Official Statistics was created under the UN Statistical Commission in 2014. The GWG provides strategic vision, direction and the coordination of a global programme on the use of new data sources and new technologies, which is essential for national statistical systems to remain relevant in a fast-moving data landscape. Big Data could fill gaps, make statistical operations more cost effective, enable the replacement of surveys and provide more granularities in outputs e.g. in support of the monitoring of the SDG goal of ‘leaving no one behind’. The GWG built the UN Global Platform as a collaborative environment to work together as a global statistical community and to learn together sharing knowledge, data and methods for all countries in the world.

Moving statistics in Africa forward

The GWG has promoted its work through annual Big Data Conferences: in October 2014 in Asia (Beijing); in October 2015 in the Middle East (Abu Dhabi); in September 2016 in Europe (Dublin); and in November 2017 in South America (Bogota). The format of these conferences was very similar: 3-days with high-level panels and demonstrations on issues related to “Big Data for official statistics”. At the most recent conference in Bogota, the GWG also successfully conducted in parallel 4 training workshops on the use of the use of satellite data, mobile phone data, scanner data and social media data, respectively.

The 5th International Conference on Big Data for official statistics will be held in Africa, namely in Kigali, Rwanda from 29 April until 3 May 2019. The first 3 days of the week will be devoted to training workshops for African countries and a seminar of activities of a Data Science Campus for official statistics. The seminar will demonstrate projects for the African continent, including projects on Digital Earth Africa. The last 2 days of the week will be for keynote speakers and several high-level panels. This week in Kigali will show that new data sources and new technologies can also be used in Africa to get better data for better policies.

Active collaboration on the UN Global Platform

The GWG created the UN Global Platform as a collaborative environment to develop and test new data sources, methods and algorithms for the global statistical system. The Global Platform will support capacity-building through a library of trusted training materials, methods and software applications. The platform currently contains several alpha services such as access to Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft’s Azure cloud, combined with a number of other services for code collaboration, methods publishing and Earth observation and location data analysis. Users of the platform can search, build, deploy and consume algorithms and statistical methods and can further develop methods using the main programming languages used by the community (R, Python, Java and Scala).

On the platform the statistical community can work together on new methods to compile Agricultural crop statistics using Satellite data, on measuring human mobility (migration and tourism statistics) using mobile phone data and on improved methods for CPI calculation using global data sets on prices and scanner data. Many more projects can be initiated on the platform involving not only the statistical community and related public sector but also stakeholders from private sector, academia and civil society.


Monday – Wednesday (29 April – 1 May 2019)

  • Workshop on Agricultural Crop statistics using Satellite data (for African countries)
  • Workshop on Human Mobility statistics using Mobile Phone data (for African countries)
  • Workshop on Consumer Price Indices calculation using Scanner data and global price data (for African countries)
  • Seminar on Data Science Campus activities (open for everyone)

Thursday – Friday (2 May – 3 May 2019)

Conference on Big Data for Official Statistics