Digital matters (lunch seminar)

Organisator Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)

vr 7 mei 2021 12:00 tot 13:00

The postdocs and researchers in the Digitalization theme within the Social Sciences Group (SSG) investment program, would like to invite you to participate in their monthly lunch seminar series on “Digital matters”.  

For this seminar series, the aim is to bring together researchers and practitioners interested in the complex interactions between digital technologies and society. This new seminar series will include talks focused not only the technological (i.e. digitisation, as the process of converting physical information into digital) but also sociological, ethical, political and legal aspects of digital technologies. Thus, the seminar will host a wide variety of scholars interested in questions regarding the interactions between digital technologies and the society. 

The format of each seminar will include a presentation followed by a discussion. The seminar series will take place online on the first Friday of every month. The time, link to the Microsoft Teams meeting, and an abstract of each talk will be circulated in advance. Anyone interested in presenting in this seminar series, suggesting topics or any other questions can contact

Title: Digitalization and Official Statistics at UNESCWA and in the Arab Region

This paper is presented in three parts: 1) Official Statistics and Digital transformation; 2) Digitization of ESCWA Statistical products in the database, and data portal and 3) Google Earth and Data Science Project for Monitoring Disasters.

1) Official statistics provide an indispensable element in the information system of a democratic society, serving the government, the economy and the public with data about the economic, demographic, social and environmental situation. The goal is to improve lives, sustain growth, and save the planet. The ten Fundamental principles (UNFPOS) are considered the basic framework that National Statistical Systems (NSS) produce high quality, independent statistics in line with international standards to support informed policies and decision-making and public confidence in government. The seminar series will take place online on the first Friday of every month.With digital transformation and data revolution, data has emerged as a powerful driver in the digital economy and a basis of digital technologies, such as AI, enhancing productivity, innovation, and improved decision-making. But measuring the value of data, understanding its impact, and designing better mechanisms for data governance are critical to benefit from the digital transformation, while addressing data privacy, competition, and intellectual property rights. New revision of the economic statistics system takes into account the digital economy and the value of data is ongoing to provide new guidelines for 2025.

Modernization of NSSs requires improving infrastructure and skills to keep up with the speed of technological changes and exploring alternative data sources such as mobile phone data, scanner data, web scarping, geospatial data, while keeping the quality and the rigorous statistical methods. The COVID 19 pandemic stopped most statistical operations and traditional methods from conducting field surveys to population census needed to compile essential demographic, social and economic statistics although few countries opted for hybrid methods. Therefore, Big Data, and data science became essential, and a Data Strategy for the UN and a Quality Framework for Big Data were developed. Social Science Group Digitalization Theme “the complex interactions between digital technologies and society”

2) UN ESCWA recently invested in the digitization of its statistical products and automated its data processes, to provide improved database management systems, data dissemination portals, dashboard and data visualization tools. The Data Portal now centralizes data with 26 databases on: economic, social, and demographic, environmental, gender, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and containing more than 800,000 data points available for custom filtering, download and visualization for the 22 Arab States.

Using Data science practices and a data-driven platform, the platform provides Machine Learning solutions that allow for estimating various indicators using simple machine learning algorithms like linear regression and random forest and in the future more complex clustering algorithms.

3) Along with the mandate to support modernizing and digitalization of NSSSs, ESCWA promotes the integration of geospatial information and big data in statistical production ESCWA won a Google Earth Engine (GEE) that aims at to monitor the impact of extreme events on agricultural areas and other types of land cover in the Northern coastal zone of Egypt and along the shores of the Nile by estimating damage based on remote sensing data and official statistics. The overall goal is to assess the usability of open medium resolution satellite data for extreme events monitoring and impact estimation. This would support the NSS and its counterparts with supplementary data that enables decision-makers to reduce disaster risk, assess damage, and strengthen resilience, particularly in developing countries.

To conduct this analysis, hazardous events data from UNDRR, the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) were acquired. Extreme events were selected based on their time of occurrence to allow for higher resolution analysis and based on their impacts. The final set of events amounted to 3 floods in 2015, 2016, and 2020. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from Sentinel 1, multispectral images from Sentinel 2 Levels 1C and 2A were used for the impact detection. Initial results showed the effects on several areas either inundated by water or affected by the event.

Speakers: Wafa Aboul HosnMohamad Hossary, and Mohammad Al Abdallah from United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia