Debate: How can we leverage population data in a time of crisis?

May - 19 Debate

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With 10 years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, it is essential to understand where people are located, what conditions they are facing, what infrastructure is available and what basic services they can access. New approaches to population data could hold the key to meeting these vital global targets. Gridded population maps distribute data using grid cells, combining census results with additional information, such as geospatial data from satellites. While gridded population data is a powerful tool for sustainable development, many policymakers and researchers are still unaware of its potential uses.
On Tuesday, 19 May, 2020 the special SciDev.Net debate, discussed gridded population data and considered its role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The expert panel moderated by SciDev.Net debated how population data can help tackle global crises.

Our panellists included:
  • Jessica Espey, director of SDSN TReNDS and senior advisor to UN SDSN
  • Alex de Sherbinin, associate director, Science Applications Division, and senior research scientist at the Center for International Earth Science InformationNetwork, Columbia University
  • Andrea Gaughan, researcher at the Worldpop Project and professor in the Department of Geography and Geosciences, University of Louisville
  • Idris Jega, assistant director, Strategic Space Applications Department at Nigeria's National Space Research and Development Agency, and member of the GRID3 Nigeria secretariat
Our panellists considered the following questions:
1. What is gridded population data, and why is it important? How does it relate to censuses?
2. Is gridded population data particularly useful in certain fields and circumstances? Can it be used by governments or organisations to meet the SDGs or respond to the COVID-19 crisis?
3. If gridded population data is an underutilised tool, what’s needed to connect policymakers and researchers? 
4. How can decision-makers go about choosing a product? 
5. What’s the future of gridded population data?

TRENDS This debate was supported by the Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS), part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network