Experts Discuss Digital Innovation for Sustainability at UN World Data Forum Event

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  • 2023•05•02     Macao

    Photo: Montage Studio

    On 25 April 2023, a satellite event of the UN World Data Forum was held in Macao, China. UNU-IAS led a session on the topic “Data Dilemmas in Public Services, Communication and GIS”, engaging experts from academia, UN organisations, and the private sector to discuss leveraging digital innovation and integrated geospatial information applications for sustainable development. The event was co-organised by UNU Institute in Macau (UNU-Macau), Fundo para o Desenvolvimento das Ciências e da Tecnologia (FDCT), University of Macau, Macau University of Science and Technology, and University of Saint Joseph.

    Opening the session, Tiziana Bonapace (Director, ICT and Disaster Risk Reduction Division, UN ESCAP) discussed the need for training and capacity building to achieve all SDGs through actionable initiatives such as the UNESCAP Space+ for Earth and Future project in Indonesia. Discussing data dilemmas, Ms Bonapace noted that UN ESCAP was adopting a bottom-up approach to make geospatial information understandable by citizens.

    Peng Gong (Professor, The University of Hong Kong) presented on the Global Seamless Data Cube and iMap, highlighting the application of satellite data in agriculture, sustainable urban development, and pre-disaster prediction. He introduced his team’s work on remote sensing technology used for collecting earth data. This data and computing power can be used to monitor and predict climate change effects, such as the flooding pattern of the Amazon River.

    Discussing the role of digital technologies in the transition to carbon neutrality, Shengru Li (Research Fellow and Academic Associate, UNU-IAS) explained that artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) could help to reduce energy consumption among households and cities. Dr Li called for an inclusive approach to digital technology and interdisciplinary collaboration to address the challenges of digital innovation.

    Sophia Cheng (Macau Water) discussed smart water systems that utilise supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) for smart operations and distribution. Macau Water uses an energy management platform for greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis and management, and has been piloting the use of AI for identifying harmful algae in Macau.

    Experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) discussed their work related to big data and sustainability. Xiaosong Li (International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals, CAS) introduced the centre’s efforts to collect data and inform environment-related SDGs, including launching the SDGSAT-1 satellite for monitoring. Gensuo Jia (International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals, CAS) discussed the CASEarth Big Earth Data Program, which collates small pieces of data for earth science and decision-making, and the challenge of integrating social science and citizen science data into existing infrastructure. Meng Wang (The Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, CAS) spoke about the role of big data in accelerating the transmission of information from science to application, China’s pledge to set up a Big Data Centre for SDGs, the launch of the SDG Big Data Platform, and the use of remote sensing data to track GHG-intensive industries.

    Photo: Montage Studio

    In conclusion, session chair Akio Takemoto (Programme Head, UNU-IAS) underscored the critical need for partnerships to address data dilemmas in areas such as public services, communication, and geographic information systems (GIS). Recognising the challenges of working with the private sector, he noted the importance of having a neutral platform for collaboration. Dr Takemoto also highlighted how a bottom-up approach could make geospatial information easily understandable, and stressed the need for capacity building, particularly among young practitioners and scholars.