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Scientists to use big data to assist in development

By ZHANG ZHIHAO | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-09-07 10:29
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Chinese scientists will collaborate with international peers to harness the power of big data, digital technologies and remote sensing satellites to help the world achieve sustainable development, experts said on Tuesday.

The lack of timely and quality data impedes the evaluation and progress of the United Nations' sustainable development goals as over half of the indicators for SDGs lack data support, they added. These limitations prohibit less developed countries from making informed, scientific decisions to pursue these objectives.

To tackle these issues, China launched the Alliance of Sustainable Development Goals Satellites on Tuesday. The alliance consists of around 60 Chinese observation satellites used to monitor and study the Earth's weather, oceans and land environment.

The alliance aims to monitor scientific indicators for seven SDGs listed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These goals ranged from issues related to life on land to clean energy and sustainable cities.

Zhang Yaping, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said digital technologies, particularly big data, play a crucial role in analyzing sustainable development issues related to the Earth's environmental systems and human activities.

Last year, China established the International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals, and launched the world's first scientific satellite dedicated to supporting the research of SDGs called SDGSAT-1, Zhang said during the opening ceremony of the 2022 International Forum on Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals in Beijing.

Zhang said that the academy and the research center would serve as science and technology think tanks and collaborate with international peers to jointly reap the benefits of digital technologies in promoting global sustainable development.

Xu Guanhua, a co-chair of the scientific committee of the forum, said that last year the International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals launched a platform for the purpose.

As of September, the platform holds 14 petabytes of data, including 40 years of satellite images and 7.6 petabytes of biological and ecological data on Earth. The platform updates about 3 petabytes of data each year, and has garnered nearly 58 million visits from 280,000 users from more than 174 countries and regions.

Xu said improving data services, strengthening scientific research and evaluation of SDGs indicators, developing new science satellites for SDGs, and capacity building and training for developing countries are essential for digital technologies like big data to make more significant contributions to promoting sustainable development.

Guo Huadong, director-general of the International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals, said China plans to build up a constellation of satellites to collect and share research data and support the achievement of SDGs in the future, with the goal of reducing development imbalance and the digital divide.

In June, the center launched the CBAS Global SDG Partnership program to facilitate joint research, data sharing, academic exchange, capability building and supporting decision-making related to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Guo said.

Siddharth Chatterjee, the UN resident coordinator in China, said in a video that many countries, particularly the least developed ones, still rely on outdated and incomplete data to inform decision-making and policies.

"Going forward, we need to invest in data and digital technologies to get ahead in the crisis so that we can trigger a more timely response, anticipate future needs and take steps to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," he said.

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