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Statistical and Geospatial agencies join forces in virtual session: a ‎whole greater than the sum of its parts

On 23 June the statistical and geospatial communities will join forces in the UNECE region with the first ever joint session of the Conference of European Statisticians (CES) and the Europe Regional Committee of United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM: Europe).

It has long been known that combining statistical information with geographic information can produce insights that neither alone could offer. The founders of modern epidemiology and public health, including John Snow and William Farr, pioneered the use of maps in combination with data on illness or death to track the progress of disease outbreaks and trace them back to their sources, ultimately shedding light on the means by which these diseases were transmitted.

The global challenges of the 21st Century are in many ways very different from the localized cholera outbreaks of the 19th Century. But the potential for better understanding and hence addressing them with statistical and geographic information remains. With the rise of geospatial information systems, the opportunities have multiplied. The possibilities are not limited to epidemiological applications-- although in the context of the Covid-19 disaster these are occupying centre stage. Other uses for integrated statistical and geospatial information include tracking poverty, environmental degradation and pollution; aiding disaster management in emergency situations; permitting fine-grained analysis and policymaking, for example for urban planning; and enhancing the efficiency of statistical activities such as population censuses. Georeferencing statistical data allows data from different sources to be combined, multiplying the value of these sources many times over compared to treating each source in isolation.

Just as combining statistical and geospatial information adds value, so too does the bringing together of the agencies and experts responsible for producing and analyzing these types of information. The joint CES/UN-GGIM: Europe session is an overlapping day in the main annual conferences of these two bodies, in which experts will consider new and emerging roles for statistical and geospatial agencies in the evolving data ecosystems of the region. Aiming to break down some of the historical boundaries between such agencies, the event will culminate in a session devoted to the measurement of hazardous events and disasters, including the current Covid-19 disaster. Countries across the region will share their experiences of applying the newly-published CES Recommendations on this topic to provide geo-statistics that contribute to informing and managing responses.