Malcolm Johnson Published Date: 2017-05-17,

We now live in an era of exponential growth for data flows driven by the proliferation of connected objects in the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem.

While this Big Data era brings a host of challenges, it also offers big opportunities to accelerate progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

That’s why ITU, as the UN agency for telecommunications, dedicated this year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD 2017) on 17 May to the theme of “Big Data for Big Impact.”

During the event, ITU members and participants worldwide explored a range of use cases of how Big Data is helping decision-makers make effective progress – at the local, regional, national and international levels – toward become truly sustainable societies.

It was a very fruitful discussion of how to use Big Data for sustainability, a topic of increasing importance that I hope will be discussed more often by a wider range of stakeholders.

Big Data for sustainable development

Indeed, Big Data can be better used to develop and implement policies and practices that will mitigate and internalize the burdens on the environment and society, such as hunger, climate change, and biodiversity destruction.

Recognizing the various challenges linked to Big Data, its categorization and use, ITU is working closely with its membership to explore the possibilities for data governance, integration, compliance and visualization. This is done with the aim to preserve the quality, confidentiality, scalability, traceability, reliability, usability and security of data streams. Hence, ITU has been actively promoting Big Data analytics as one of the key tools which can support inductive methods on using the generated data to achieve the SDGs.

Standards work to speed progress

ITU-T, ITU’s standardization arm, has developed numerous international standards and guidelines to support this growth through the ITU-T Study Group 20 on Internet of Things and Smart Cities and Communities and the Focus Group on Data Processing and Management to support IoT and Smart Cities & Communities, which hopes to establish and discuss feasible data management frameworks.

Additionally, ITU together with 15 UN agencies established the United for Smart Sustainable Cities initiative, which serves as the global platform for knowledge sharing on smart city related issues including IoT, big data and artificial intelligence.

This is just the beginning.

As a member of the GeSI board, I am eager for the idea of utilizing Big Data for sustainability to take flight and I hope that with the combined capacities and expertise on Big Data, we can lay the foundation for a sound and secure management framework which will serve generations to come.


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