Credit: World Food Programme

Credit: World Food Programme

United Nations establishes visual analytics standard

The United Nations (UN) recently announced that it has signed an agreement which gives professionals working in 193 member states across the UN system access to visual analytics software.

The agreement establishes Tableau as a global visual analytics standard across the UN system and simplifies the acquisition of the technology for all UN-affiliated entities.

The establishment of Tableau as a global visual analytics standard followed a comprehensive and exhaustive examination of Tableau’s technical capabilities and corporate standing.

The agreement builds on the work of multiple UN agencies already using Tableau to find insights and take on some of the world’s most pressing challenges. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are some of the many agencies that have deployed Tableau to help improve the lives and livelihoods of people regionally.

Late last year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the growing importance placed on data systems for disaster response. He made the comment at the launch of the Centre for Humanitarian Data in The Hague in December 2017. The event showcased the role of data-informed decision-making applied to addressing social development issues and crisis response, including several innovations.

“Accurate data is the lifeblood of good policy and decision-making,” Secretary-General Mr Guterres said.

“Obtaining it, and sharing it across hundreds of organizations, in the middle of a humanitarian emergency, is complicated and time consuming, but it is absolutely crucial.”

According to UN Assistant Secretary-General and Chief Information Technology Officer Ms Atefeh Riazi, “effective use of data can help us (UN) expand our knowledge of fundamental issues, such as social and political instability, natural disasters and climate change, to improve decision-making and enhance our ability to predict, and even pre-empt, the next crisis.”

Ms Riazi also highlighted that strategic partnerships allow the UN to embrace data by making world class visual analytics available to United Nations offices globally.

“The United Nations is the guardian of an unparalleled database of the world’s socioeconomic and political history. Opening this data to the public and collaborating with partners will help us make better decisions that support the work of the United Nations,” she said.

Credit: UNDP Portfolio Results Browser

Since 2015,UN agencies have been fostering data innovation to support people in the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Such applications include:

(1)    Humanitarian Data Exchange

The Humanitarian Data Exchange by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs which aims improve access to data and visual analytics in disaster preparedness and response.

(2)    The World Food Programme

Working through the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework, the World Food Programme (WFP) makes use of mobile data in real time to prevent famine. It delivers real-time food security monitoring insights to decision makers in the field to make reliable, data-informed decisions to alleviate hunger and suffering in more than 80 countries.

The delivery of real-time food security data through mobile technology through mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) which was launched in 2013. WFP and its partners can remotely collect food security and price data. Not only does this approach provide a way to hear from people in inaccessible areas, but it also makes near real-time reporting to local decision-makers possible.

(3)    The UN Development Programme

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) Health Implementation and Support Team have been using Tableau to better present the results of the partnership with the Global Fund. The team said the software has been particularly useful to give users of UNDP’s web content a more engaging way of viewing programme activity and results.

Portfolio results browser is a visualisation that allows users to view cumulative results from all of the Global Fund grants past and present, browse data for active grants on a map and view in a table. Sharing the results in this way is an improvement on just sharing the results via Excel and advances the goal of being more transparent as an organisation.

Another use case Africa regional grant illustrates the reach of the Africa Regional HIV Grant for Removing Legal Barriers to Access and provide a more dynamic way for users to view programme data specific for each country. This approach provides much more detail on country level programme activity on the page in a more engaging way.

 “I am proud of the role the UN is taking in the global data revolution and am excited to see what we can accomplish when we bring our partners to the table, wherever they may be in the world,” said Ms Riazi.

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