Geo data science for reporting the UK’s progress against the Sustainable Development Goals

Alistair Edwardes and Emma Wood (Office for National Statistics)

The Office for National Statistics is responsible for collating data and public reporting of the UK’s progress against each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 169 Targets, and 244 Indicators. Identifying data for each of the indicators is challenging and so far we have amassed data for 75%. However, for some indicators there is not currently a data source that specifically addresses the global SDG requirements, either in terms of measurement or disaggregation. In these instances, innovative solutions working with big-data and alternative data sources are sought. Where such data are available globally, this also provides the opportunity for the UK to assist others in validating such sources, thereby building international statistical capacity and contributing to the Leave No One Behind agenda. This presentation will cover work by ONS and it’s Data Science Campus to validate earth observation derived data and their fitness-for-purpose when applied to early policy intervention for Indicator 6.6.1: “Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time”. This involved statistical comparisons with conventional topographic sources, and the use of alternative methods to derive statistics using machine learning and high-resolution imagery. Indicator 6.6.1 is a good example of an indicator that is highly relevant to other countries, and for which our work may enable other countries with fewer resources to validate earth observation data at a national scale.