New global platform to provide one-stop access to curated reliable data on sustainability issues
World Resources Institute (WRI), and more than 30 partners, including National Geographic, Google, Bloomberg and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), are launching Resource Watch, a dynamic platform that aims to provide trusted and timely data for a sustainable future.
The platform leverages technology and near-real-time data to bring transparency on the state of the planet’s people, resources and commerce, all in one place.
Resource Watch was created to address two global challenges: a proliferation of data, and declining trust in institutions. Decision-makers are faced with ever growing volumes of data, yet they are facing difficulties in finding the information they need.
Curating and visualising hundreds of datasets
Resource Watch acts as an easy-to-use monitoring tool that curates and visualises reliable data.
The data on Resource Watch come from various sources, including governments, intergovernmental organisations, research institutions, and scientific publications. The team works with experts to select data sets that are reliable and relevant to global sustainability challenges.
For instance, users can see where shrinking reservoirs could cause instability, which cities’ air pollution levels pose a serious threat to their residents’ health, and watch a coral reef transform from bleaching over time. Data from near-real-time satellites and ground sensors helps users track and visualise fires, floods, landslides, air quality, natural disasters and other world events as they unfold.
Users can also download, analyse and visualise the data in many ways, and share their insights.
Resource Watch was designed with government staff, business analysts, journalists, and researchers in mind, but the platform is free to use for anyone. WRI will continue to add new data layers and functionality every week.
"Until recently it wasn't possible to monitor the health of Earth's critical resources in both a globally consistent and locally relevant manner,” said Rebecca Moore, Director of Google Earth. “Now with satellite data, cutting-edge science and powerful cloud computing technology like Google Earth Engine, we can achieve an unprecedented understanding of our changing environment and use that to guide wiser decision-making. Google is excited to partner with WRI on Resource Watch and the new global power plant database, putting this vision into practice, and this data into the hands of those who can take action.”
Exploring intersections between issues
The most complex sustainability challenges facing the world today, such as climate change, food security, population growth, water scarcity, are deeply intertwined. But people looking at these issues and the relevant data are trapped in silos.
By looking at a single issue, people often miss the bigger picture and fail to understand the full nature of a problem. The Resource Watch platform allows users to overlay the hundreds of data sets available on climate change, poverty, state instability, urban infrastructure and more and explore their interconnectedness. By breaking down traditional silos and studying how issues intersect, users can more effectively understand the causes and find solutions to key problems.
Janet Ranganathan, Vice President, Science and Research, World Resources Institute, said, “Now, Resource Watch allows users to see how issues intersect by visualising and overlaying data in new ways. It helps analysts and decision-makers cut through the daunting mountain of data to find the signal in the noise."
Open source infrastructure
Resource Watch’s underlying data infrastructure (API) is open source, which means that others can build on it to create their own custom, self-branded applications. In this way, Resource Watch is a global public good, enabling any organisation to leverage data for their own causes.
“Resource Watch’s open source architecture allows other initiatives to leverage its data and visualization capability, creating economies of scale and data synergies,” said Prof Sir Andy Haines, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Resource Watch could power the development of a 'Planetary Health Watch' system by making it possible to monitor environmental trends and their effects on human health.”
The Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREPdata) is the first example of a custom interface to improve access to climate data and help communities build climate resilience, and others are being developed.
“When our institutions are being tested and science is facing unprecedented attacks, we must increase transparency and speak with clarity and conviction in support of sound science,” said Administrator McCarthy, Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Advisor at Pegasus Capital Advisors. “Tools like Resource Watch are essential for making science accessible to decision makers so we can turn science into actions that advance policies, technologies and products that improve public health.”
The complete list of founding partners can be accessed here.
According to the Resource Watch website, partners support the platform in one of the following ways:
- Providing technical resources such as storage, computing, and technical expertise
- Contributing data and insights on what’s happening around the world and how data can be used to drive action
- Guiding system design to ensure Resource Watch is useful to a wide variety of users
- Supporting the use of Resource Watch in specific communities who can utilize the data to advance a more sustainable future
- Building on Resource Watch to create custom products and applications, and
Providing financial support to enable Resource Watch to stay up to date and provide free information to people around the globe
Resource Watch is funded by DOB Ecology (a foundation initiated by a Dutch entrepreneurial family), Danida (Denmark’s development cooperation, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Swedish International Development Cooperation (a Swedish Government agency working to reduce poverty around the world) and the Tilia Fund (a partnership of private donors interested in solving the world's environmental problems).