In May 2015, CEB addressed the issue of the data revolution. The discussion was motivated by the Director-General of ILO. He opened the discussion by recalling the rich debate on the subject that had taken place at the previous session of CEB, which had concluded with a request for the three CEB pillars to develop a coherent United Nations system response to the data revolution.
Introducing the document entitled “United Nations system approach for a data revolution”, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs stated that the initiatives contained in the document set the stage for the United Nations system response to the call for a data revolution in sustainable development. Developed by a working group of specialists, the approach proposed four concrete initiatives drawn largely from the recommendations contained in the report of the Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development. Initiative 1 expanded the capacity to drive data innovation through the development of a United Nations system data innovation laboratory, building on existing activities in this area. Initiative 2 strengthened data exchange and communication capabilities across the United Nations system by seeking to create the foundation for data visualization and dashboard capability across the system. Initiative 3 created and strengthened partnerships for coordination and capacity-building in data-driven sustainable development through a world forum on sustainable development data, and initiative 4 promoted the greater use of existing data assets within the United Nations system and by the public through the creation of a United Nations system data catalogue.
The Board agreed that reliable, consistent, accessible and harmonized data remained fundamental to the successful achievement of development goals. Noting that vast expertise in data existed outside the United Nations, the Board stressed the need to focus the energies of the United Nations system on those areas where it could provide added value
The Board endorsed the proposed United Nations system approach to the data revolution and agreed that: UNICEF and the World Food Programme would lead Initiative 1; the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the Secretariat, together with other interested agencies, would lead Initiatives 2 and 3; and the Office of Information and Communications Technology of the Secretariat, with the support of the CEB secretariat would lead Initiative 4. Furthermore, the Board agreed that, as a next step, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs would administer a survey and conduct consultations on the vision of CEB member organizations for realizing the potential for a data revolution. The information collected would be used to create a more comprehensive United Nations system response to the data revolution to be presented to the Board at a future session.