16 January 2017

South Africa: Sexy, Cool Data - Get Ready for the UN's 'Cape Town Global Action Plan'

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Data is key to Africa's development.

In these post-truth times, the United Nations is bucking the turn to personal belief and the emotional by launching its global action plan for data to support sustainable development. That means 1,500 "data leaders" - to use the jargon of the world body for statistics and data geeks, representing governments, civil society, business and academia - are meeting in Cape Town for the inaugural UN World Data Forum. It's the first step towards regular two-yearly meetings in what is acknowledged to be a long haul amid confidence numbers will ultimately trump. By MARIANNE MERTEN.

Throughout the terse United States presidential election campaign and the slightly less antagonistic referendum on the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, commentators noted the absence of facts amid the fanciful, and often inciting, language deployed. Perhaps it was no surprise then that the Oxford Dictionary in November 2016 chose "post-truth" as its word of the year, defining the adjective as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief".

But that's not what the United Nations (UN) World Data Forum has in mind. Its focus from Sunday to Wednesday includes statistical...

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