SDGs offer unique opportunity to expand SDMX reach says UNSD’s Schweinfest

Addis Ababa, 3 October 2017 (ECA) – The universality and cross-cutting nature of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offers a unique opportunity for international partners to expand the reach of SDMX beyond its geographical and substantive core.

This was said by Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the United Nations Statistics Division in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. He was speaking at the 6th Statistical Data and Metadata eXchange (SDMX) conference in Addis Ababa.

“Indeed, we have observed enormous interest in and are asked a lot about SDMX for SDGs,” he said, adding that a working group has been established to develop SDMX standards for the SDGs. The group aims to conduct pilot data exchange early next year, and release official structures towards the end of next year.

SDMX is an international initiative that aims to standardize and modernize mechanisms and processes for the exchange of statistical data and metadata among international organisations and their member countries. It is an ISO standard for data and metadata dissemination and has become a basis to design statistical processes.

Mr. Schweinfest, who gave participants a brief history of how SDMX came into being, said interoperability was at the heart of SDMX.

“This standard is platform neutral, and indeed has proven to work very well across sometimes quite heterogeneous systems. Interoperability permits to use SDMX structures in a variety of contexts to support data collection, dissemination, data hubs, and others,” he said.

SDMX tools, said Mr. Schweinfest, are available as open source, allowing users to easily extend and build on them.

“These technologies and tools can of course help streamline and automate data exchange at national level just as well as with international agencies – indeed great efficiencies can be achieved implementing data exchange between the various government agencies at the national level. These technologies create a potential to even take SDMX beyond statistics,” the UNSD Director said.

At the last SDMX conference in 2015, Sponsor Agencies agreed on an important strategic document for the future, namely the Roadmap 2020. It identified goals in four areas; strengthening the implementation of SDMX; making data usage easier via SDMX, especially for policy use; using SDMX to modernise statistical processes, as well as continuously improving the standards and IT infrastructure; and improving communication in general, including a better interaction between international partners.

The roadmap comes with an action plan, to which all Sponsor Agencies committed. Its details were presented in the first substantive session following the opening session of the conference.

Mr. Schweinfest said at the heart of SDMX is the idea that partners can agree on a way to present and exchange statistical data and metadata in a standardized way.

“We have to be aware that by itself SDMX is not a wonder weapon, and will not, in a flash, enable all our systems to talk to each other.  SDMX is about developing and agreeing structures that we can use to present data from the various statistical domains,” he said.

He applauded International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank efforts he said have helped industrialize SDMX exchange in Africa. 

Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826