"The integration of data streams through digital infrastructure is being accelerated as SIDS share knowledge and innovations, rising up together to build sustainability and resilient futures."
In this exclusive interview, His Excellency Mr. Azali Assoumani, President of Comoros, highlights the pivotal role of digital transformation and data in building resilient SIDS and will strengthen SIDS' response to climate change.
Q) Earlier this year, in preparation for the 4th UN Conference for SIDS, delegates to the Wadadli action platform emphasized data collection gaps within SIDS. How is data essential for effective climate action?
A: Data plays a key role in supporting the structural, financial, and technological transformations needed for SIDS to respond to the Paris Agreement, 2030 Agenda, and the SAMOA Pathway. Investment decisions of both private and public sectors are driven by data. As a critical component of climate action, data is at the center of effective governance, participatory decision-making, resource management, monitoring, and to enable broader innovation ecosystems.
However, several challenges continue to limit the availability and the value of data in SIDS - in particular, data capacity and completeness. For example, there is not enough data on marginalized populations to effectively design policies and interventions for equity and social inclusion. Administrative data, socioeconomic indicators, and geospatial data all play a key role vulnerability assessments, accountability and transparency, and monitoring development progress. For example, Comoros is already utilising drones integrated with GIS to accurately and quickly measure forested areas.
Q) How are SIDS uniquely positioned to leverage the potential of data and digital analytics?
A: Digital transformation has been enabling us as SIDS to leverage the unique benefits of our countries and communities. As Large Ocean States, SIDS’ Exclusive Economic Zones are often hundreds of times larger than our land areas, making traditional monitoring and surveillance methods ineffective. This requires a new approach to economic and climate risks, including in mitigation and adaptation to sea-level rise and extreme weather events.
Since SIDS can face challenges in achieving economies of scale, data science and automation tools can be powerful assets in enhancing the effectiveness of local statistical offices. An investment in technical education and infrastructure will be essential, along with public-private collaboration and innovative finance. For example, the provision of grant financing and technical assistance for the collection and international exchange of weather and climate observations will strengthen SIDS' response to climate change by filling data gaps and supporting adaptation to increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
Q) As governments are meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh to accelerate efforts to confront the climate crisis, what is the role of emerging data technologies for SIDS’ digital transformation?
A: The network of SIDS can be made more powerful when connected and innovating as a global island community. The integration of data streams through digital infrastructure is being accelerated as SIDS share knowledge and innovations, rising up together to build sustainable and resilient futures. Comoros has set up six protected areas on sea and land, and is preparing to utilize these new technologies. However, for inclusive and equitable development, open data infrastructure needs to be developed in parallel with legislation that ensures data privacy and security can protect the rights of individuals and interests of SIDS.
A data community in SIDS can be further enabled through the provision of digital tools, open data, capacity-building workshops, training curriculums, and finance mechanisms. In this regard, we greatly value the leadership and concrete support UNDP has shown through the development of the SIDS Data Platform. Monitoring, implementation, and strengthening of national and regional statistical systems have been at the forefront of our recent discussions, and the SIDS Data Platform has set the direction we need to go in data collection and in building SIDS data systems. This support in data capacity-building and development of digital tools specific for SIDS is in direct response to calls to action we made at COP26.
Image: Muazaoir Abdallah – TARTIB