Thesis subject

MSc thesis topic: Assessing the potential of open-geo data for monitoring urban social sustainability

17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2015 by the United Nations (UN) for a sustainable future. However, many SDG indicators are not yet on track due to the lack of data, especially for social indicators in urban areas.

Urbanization has achieved a planetary reach, but urban SDG assessment in general lacks sufficient data and research. Many urban SDG indicators such as inadequate housing require fine scale remote sensing data or data that need to be sourced locally[1]. This is also why many urban SDG indicators are classified as Tier II (data are not regularly produced by countries) and Tier III (no internationally established methodology or standards).

To make up for this information deficit, alternative and innovative sources of data, especially open-geo data, are required to support urban SDG reporting at high spatial resolution and repeatedly over time[1-2]. Currently, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) has been working on recognizing the potential of Earth observation data for SDG monitoring. However, they mainly focus on SDG environmental indicators such as land cover, regardless of social indicators. In this research, we will explore the potential of open-geo data for SDG social indicators, and then use geospatial data to assess urban social sustainability.


  • To explore the possibility and limitations of open-geo data for monitoring urban social sustainability.
  • To analyse the trends of urban SDG social indicators and their relations in cities or countries of different urbanization processes, such as Europe and China.


  • Stokes, E. C. & Seto, K. C. Characterizing urban infrastructural transitions for the Sustainable Development Goals using multi-temporal land, population, and nighttime light data. Remote Sens. Environ. 234, 111430 (2019).
  • Fritz, S. et al. Citizen science and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Nat. Sustain. 2, 922–930 (2019).
  • Estoque, R. C. A review of the sustainability concept and the state of SDG monitoring using remote sensing. Remote Sens. 12, (2020).


  • Interested in big data analysis, geo-computation, and social data collection

Theme(s): Sensing & measuring; Human – space interaction