Are We Leaving Too Many Behind? Addressing the Gap Between Population Data Suppliers and Policymakers
Written by Maryam Rabiee
‘Driving science to action’ was a critical theme at the 2019 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall meeting where TReNDS, alongside CIESIN and GPSDD, presented on how to make information about integrating new data sources for population estimates more accessible to policymakers, as well as insights from our forthcoming report, Leaving No One Off the Map: How Gridded Population Data Can Help Realize a More Sustainable World.
While it was reassuring to see that ‘driving science to action’ and sustainable development were among the prominent themes in the thousands of oral presentations and posters at the AGU Fall meetings this year, the gap between technological and policy progress continues to challenge the implementation of the SDGs. It is only when we align these processes that we are truly working toward leaving no one behind.
In 2015, world leaders promised to ‘leave no one behind’ when they adopted the 2030 Agenda to achieve the 17 ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But what does it actually mean to leave no one behind? How do we ensure that populations in all geographic locations benefit from the SDGs, particularly when many regions are grappling with geographical, environmental, and political circumstances that preclude vulnerable populations from being counted? This was a key question posed during our session at the AGU Fall meeting last week where TReNDS presented alongside CIESIN and GPSDD on our work with the POPGRID Data Collaborative on how to make information about integrating new data sources for population estimates more accessible to policymakers.
Source: American Geophysical Union
More than 30 of the SDG indicators have a direct connection to total population count. To meet the SDGs, policymakers need access to reliable and up-to-date data on population to improve access to basic services and infrastructure. Traditionally, population counts are derived from census data. However, infrequent intervals of data collection, inaccessibility to certain geographic locations, and other social constraints (e.g. language barriers between enumerators and indigenous communities) often leave many uncounted in the total population estimates.
Over the past two decades, high resolution satellite imagery, advanced Geospatial Information System (GIS) and remote sensing capabilities have created the opportunity to produce gridded population datasets (using different modeling approaches to disaggregate population data using spatial data and imagery) that can complement census data and fill in the gaps. As the number of gridded population datasets grow, policymakers are faced with different datasets that are appropriate for variety of applications. Yet, there is a dearth of guidance on how to select and use these datasets.
To help fill this gap and create a more accessible knowledgebase for policymakers, TReNDS upcoming report, Leaving No One Off the Map: How Gridded Population Data Can Help Realize a More Sustainable World, will communicate the significance and variations of gridded population datasets in simple terms. Drawing from a POPGRID review paper published earlier this year, the report will include interviews with National Statistical Offices and government officials, relevant use cases, and intercomparison assessments to guide policymakers toward selecting the most appropriate gridded population dataset for the target application and analysis required to measure and monitor the SDGs.
The report will be released in early 2020. For more information on POPGRID, email Maryam Rabiee.