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Demography and the Data Revolution

In 2014, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation approached the IUSSP with a project to bring IUSSP members into ongoing discussions about the need for a data revolution to accompany the post-2015 development agenda and monitor progress towards a new set of goals and indicators, the Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the MDGs in 2015. In collaboration with the Population Association of America (PAA) and with the assistance of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the IUSSP organized or participated in a number of activities to enable demographers to contribute their skills to the Data Revolution.


The list of activities is provided here in reverse chronological order.


For those of you interested in learning more about the Data Revolution, a number of background documents are provided below and links to websites related to the Data Revolution are provided in the right-hand column.


Workshop: Data Visualization in R preconference workshop at the Gender and Generations Project (GGP) User Conference, Paris, France, 22-23 October 2019


Conference: Demographic Challenges in Africa: The Contributions of Census and Civil Registration Data, Paris, France, 16-18 October 2019

[Population Perspectives and Demographic Methods to Strengthen Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems]


Workshop: Migration Data and Models for a Better World: Perspectives from social scientists, data scientists and international organizations, New York, United States, 9 August 2019

[Digital Demography]


Workshop: Demographic Research with Web and Social Media Data, Munich, Germany 11 June, 2019

[Digital Demography]


Workshop: Digital Demography in the Era of Big Data, Seville, Spain, 6-7 June 2019

[Digital Demography]


Workshop: Mortality Monitoring in the Era of the SDGs, Rostock, Germany, 11-13 December 2018

[IUSSP Data for Development Committee]


Workshop: Uncertainty and Complexity of Migration, London, United Kingdom, 20-21 November 2018

[Microsimulation and Agent-based Modeling in Demography]


Session:  Challenges for monitoring the SDGs: a regional dialogue on demographic data and indicators, at the International Congress of the Latin American Population Association (ALAP), Puebla, Mexico, 26 October 2018



Session: Innovations in Longitudinal and Cross-national Surveys, at the 4th APA Conference, Shanghai, China, 13 July 2018



Training workshop: Bayesian Small Area Estimation using Complex Survey Data: Methods and Applications, Shanghai, China, 10-11 July 2018 

[IUSSP Data Revolution Committee]


Workshop: Making Sense of Online Data for Population Research, at the 2018 International Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM), Stanford, United States, 25 June 2018

[Big Data and Population Processes]


Training workshop: Summer Institute in Computational Social Science, Cape Town, South Africa, 18-29 June 2018

[IUSSP Data Revolution Committee]


Workshop: Demographic Research in the Digital Age, Denver, United States, 25 April 2018 

[Big Data and Population Processes]


Training workshop: Bayesian Small Area Estimation using Complex Survey Data: Methods and Applications, Denver, United States, 24-25 April 2018 

[IUSSP Data Revolution Committee]


Training workshop on Social Media, Big Data and Digital Demography, Cape Town, South Africa, 29 October 2017, 8:30-16:00


Training Course on Bayesian Population Projections: Theory and  Practice, Cape Town, South Africa, 28-29 October 2017, 8:30-16:00


Seminar on: Geospatial Demography. Combining Satellite, Survey, Census and Cellphone Data to Provide Small-area Estimates, Cape Town, South Africa, 29 October 2017, 8:30-16:00


Workshop: Social Media and Demographic Research: Applications and Implications, at the 11th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM-17), Montreal, Canada, 15 May 2017. [Organized by the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Big Data and Population Processes]


Training Workshop: Social Media and Demographic Methods, Chicago, United States, 26 April 2017. [Organized by the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Big Data and Population Processes]


Session: Advancing the Data Revolution through Record Linkage and Data Integration, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 6 December 2016. The session was organized by the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Innovations for Strengthening CRVS Systems at the 15th Conference of the International Association for Official Statistics (IAOS). The session was attended by 42 participants. The aim is to have the three papers presented published along with those of an earlier meeting in the Statistical Journal of the IAOS (SJIAOS) in June 2017.


Seminar: How Does Big Data Contribute to Improved Demographic Knowledge, Seattle, United States, 18 November 2016. The seminar was organized by the Center for Studies on Demography and Ecology of the University of Washington. The four seminar panelists included three people who are deeply involved in IUSSP Data Revolution activities: Tom LeGrand, Emilio Zagheni (co-chair of the Scientific Panel on Big Data and Population Processes) and Patrick Gerland (chair of the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Innovations for Strengthening Civil Registration and Vital Statistical Systems). 


Research workshop: Web, Social Media, and Cellphone Data for Demographic Research, Bellevue (Seattle), United States, 14 November 2016. The workshop was organized by the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Big Data and Population Processes at the 2016 Social Informatics conference (SocInfo 2016). It brought together members of both the industry and academia, from a number of disciplines, including demography, computer science, statistics, geography and sociology. 


Round Table: Web and Social Media for Demographic Research, Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, 19 October 2016. This round table was organized by the IUSSP at the ALAP/ABEP Congress to present the Data Revolution to a broader audience of Latin American population scholars.


Side Meeting and Round table: Civil Registration and Vital Statistical (CRVS) assessment, Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, 18 and 20 October 2016. The IUSSP Scientific Panel on Innovations for Strengthening CRVS Systems organized a side meeting and a round table at the joint Congress of the Latin American Population Association (ALAP) and the Brazilian Association for Population Studies (ABEP) with the aim of showcasing recent methodological developments, and of fostering an exchange of regional experiences on how to best assess the completeness and accuracy of birth and death statistics, which are key indicators of CRVS system performance. These meetings brought together regional specialists and experts involved with the development and/or the application of direct methods, especially through the use of record linkage validation for assessing the completeness and accuracy of births and deaths records based on data from civil registration and other administrative and health sources, at national or local levels.


Training Workshop: Web and Social Media for Demographic Research, organized by the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Big Data and Population Processes at the ALAP/ABEP Congress, Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, 17 October 2016.


Training Workshop: Web, Social Media Data and Demographic Research, preconference workshop organized by the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Big Data and Population Processes at the European Population Conference, Mainz, Germany, 31 August 2016.


Research Workshop: Social Media and Demographic Research: Applications and Implications, Cologne, Germany, 17 May 2016. This research workshop was organized by the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Big Data and Population Processes at the 10th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM-16). The goal of the workshop was to bring together population researchers and data scientists to discuss the applications and implications of social media for demographic research, and foster communication between these two communities. 


Expert meeting: The challenges of demographic data in Sub-Saharan Africa in the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Paris, France, 31 May 2016. The meeting was organized by DEMOSTAF (Demography Statistics for Africa), the IUSSP & the French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) and hosted at INED. The aim of this meeting was to give an overview of the different challenges related to demographic data in Sub-Saharan Africa in the framework of the SDGs and identify levers to overcome these constraints.


Expert Meeting: Towards the Next Generation of Record-linkage Studies to Advance Data Quality Assessment of Civil Registration Systems in Low- and Middle-income Countries, Washington DC, United States, 4-5 April 2016. The meeting was organized by the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Innovations for Strengthening CRVS systems and hosted at World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. It brought together a diverse group of 35 researchers and practitioners from a dozen countries and included both academic researchers and practitioners from national statistical offices and ministries of health, as well as officials from the United Nations agencies. The meeting's focus was on the use of direct demographic estimation methods that draw on record-linkage techniques, to assess the completeness and quality of CRVS systems.


Training Workshop: Social Media and Demographic Methods, organized by the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Big Data and Population Processes at the Population Association of America Annual Meeting, Washington D.C., United States, 30 March 2016.

IUSSP meeting on Advancing the Data Revolution in Africa: A Dialogue between Demographers and Data Practitioners, Johannesburg 1 December 2015 – 11:00-12:30, organised as a side meeting at the 7th African Population Conference. The idea of a ‘data revolution’ in service of global development and the SDGs is gaining traction. The side meeting took the form of a panel discussion of demographers and data practitioners to explore practical aspects of an African Data Revolution, including capacity and training needs, and possible joint initiatives between demographers and data practitioners to advance the data revolution in Africa. 


Expert Meeting: Lessons learned from local initiatives supporting sustainable civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems in Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa, 28 November 2015. The meeting was organized by the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Innovations for Strengthening CRVS Systems as a side meeting at the African Population Conference. Twenty-eight researchers from 18 countries attended the meeting, mainly demographers and representatives from Ministries of Home Affairs responsible for civil registration, regional statistical offices and international organizations involved with vital statistics. The authors reflected on their respective national experiences, and offered comprehensive and up-to-date assessments and evaluations of the progress made, data quality and coverage, and how ICT innovations can help to improve registration and the production of vital statistics.


United Nations Expert Group Meeting: Strengthening the demographic evidence base for the post-2015 development agenda, New York, United States, 5-6 October 2015. Several key demographers working on IUSSP data revolution activities participated and made presentations at this meeting (Tom Moultrie, Tom LeGrand, Sam Clark and Patrick Gerland). 


3rd International Open Data Conference (IODC) took place on May 28-29, 2015, in Ottawa, Canada. Read the Final Conference Report “Enabling the Data Revolution: An International Open Data Roadmap”. This report draws upon the many discussions that took place in Ottawa at IODC, providing a summary of key topics and debates, and providing a shared vision of the road ahead for the IODC community. It is a curated record of discussions and debates, providing a snapshot of key issues and setting out a path forward based on the visions, ideas, and agreements explored at IODC. 


Session on Demography, Demographers and the Data Revolution at the Annual Meeting of the PAA in San Diego on 1 May 2015.

The session was chaired by Sunita Kishor (DHS Program, ICF International) and speakers were: Tom A. Moultrie (University of Cape Town), Suzana M. Cavenaghi (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística - IBGE), Sabrina Juran (UNFPA) and Diego Iturralde (Statistics South Africa), who presented a paper by Pali Lehohla (Statistics South Africa).


Cartagena Data Festival, Cartagena, Colombia, 20-22 April 2015. 

IUSSP co-organized a side meeting with United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN) on Harnessing the Data Revolution for Development: Issues in the design and monitoring of SDG Indicators that included 10 expert panelists (see report). IUSSP members also participated in sessions focusing on Big Data, innovations for Vital Registration Systems, and a plenary on Data sources post-2015: Complements & Substitutes. 


Report: Monitoring demographic indicators for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (1 April 2015)

As part of the IUSSP’s activities related to the post-2015 data revolution, Stephane Helleringer (Johns Hopkins University) reviewed the population-related indicators proposed by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN-SDSN) for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


The IUSSP on a Data Revolution for Development, in Population and Development Review, Vol. 41, Issue 1, March 2015. pp 172–177. 

This document, published in Population and Development Review is a revised version of the position paper submitted to the UN Independent Expert Advisory Group (see below).


IUSSP Statement:  Defining and successfully accomplishing the Data Revolution – The perspective of Demographers. (15 October 2014)

This position paper, written by Tom A. Moultrie, (University of Cape Town), Thomas LeGrand (Université de Montréal), Rachel Quint (Hewlett Foundation), and Emma Samman (Overseas Development Institute), was submitted on 15 October, 2014 to the Independent Expert Advisory Group, which in turn presented its draft report to the Secretary-General in November. Members are invited to post their comments on this statement.


Expert Group Meeting on Demography and the Post-2015 Data Revolution, in Paris, France 9-10 October 2014

The meeting brought together 22 prominent population scientists to discuss how demographers, and demographic skills, could contribute to a data revolution. It was organized around plenary and brainstorming sessions designed to bring participants to a general consensus of what a data revolution might entail and how demographers could best contribute.


Resources and Further Reading 

⇒ Africa Data ConsensusFinal Version adopted by the High Level Conference on Data Revolution, 8th AU-ECA Conference of Ministers, 29 March 2015, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

⇒ A World That Counts: Mobilising a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development


⇒ High Level Panel report 


⇒ Mexico Communiqué: The third draft of the Mexico Communiqué now has reference to the Data Revolution (paragraph 37): 


⇒ HLP Response by UN Global Pulse 


⇒ Managing the Data Revolution, report by the UN Statistical Commission 


⇒ Now for the Long Term,” proposal for global coordination of statistics by the Oxford Martin School


⇒ PARIS21 Discussion Papers


⇒ Delivering on the Data Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa, Report of the Data for African Development Working Group








News Feed 

Webinar: Leaving No One Off the Map: A Guide for Using New Methods for Population Estimation.
Wednesday 26th February 2020 10-11am ET.
Please Register through this LINK.


Report on the 2019 CODATA Conference. Towards Next Generation Data-Driven Science: Policies, Practices and Platforms. Beijing, 19-20 September 2019


Lectures on "Bayesian Subnational Estimation using Complex Survey Data" by Jon Wakefiled and Richard Zehang Li. View videos and download R Files and presentations in Pdf

International Association for Official Statistics (IAOS) 2020 Conference. Call for Papers: Better Lives 2030: mobilising the power of data for Africa and the world

Securing High-quality Data on Populations
Why we need EuroCohort, GGP and SHARE in Europe

Assessing data and statistical
capacity gaps for better gender statistics. Framework and Implementation Guidelines

Launch of new report; Counting on the World To Act  A Roadmap for Governments to Achieve Modern Data Systems for Sustainable Development

Demography in the Big Data Revolution: Changing the Culture to Forge New Frontiers. Article by Stephanie A. Bohon


Statistical Capacity Development Outlook 2019 report, published by Paris21

Call for papers: Data for Good Exchange 2019: Data Science for the SDGs. 15 September 2019. Bloomberg Global Headquarters, New York City, USA. Deadline for submissions: 17 June 2019.

CODATA 2019 Beijing: Towards next-generation data-driven science: policies, practices and platforms, 19-20 September 2019.  Call for Presentations and Posters: deadline 24 June 2019


The Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2018 is available online. It presents maps, charts, and stories related to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and discusses trends, comparisons, and measurement issues using accessible and shareable data visualizations.  The data is drawn from the World Bank World Development indicators.


Blog post : “Official Statistics in a Post-Truth World”, written by Haishan Fu, Director of the Development Data Group, in the World Bank Development Economics Vice Presidency.


The 49th session of the UN Statistical Commission will be held from 6-9 March 2018 on the theme “Better Data, Better Lives”.
Background reports:

UNSSC/Data-Pop Alliance professional training workshop. Dakar, Senegal (6-8 March 2018)


UNSSC/Data-Pop Alliance professional training workshop.  Bangkok, Thailand (27-29-March 2018)


The UNDP has published a synthesis report titled Data ecosystems for sustainable development. An assessment of six pilot countries. This report assesses the readiness of the data systems in six African, Asian, Latin American and Eastern European countries for implementing and monitoring the SDGs. For the report summary and to download the full report, see here


The first Africa Data Revolution Report focuses on mapping the data ecosystem in Africa


The Sustainable Development Solutions Network has just published a report entitled Counting on the World: Building Modern Data Systems for Sustainable Development. The report can be downloaded from their website Among other topics, this publication considers population baseline data from censuses, surveys and civil and vital registration systems.


Tom Moultrie, IUSSP Council member and a leader of the IUSSP data revolution activities, has published an article in The Conversation on “In the quest to meet the SDGs, there’s a danger that some may be left behind”. 


The Open Data Watch and Data2X have published a report on gender data for monitoring and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (Ready to Measure, Phase II), and provides information on currently available data (Indicators available to monitor SDG gender targets). Click here to access them. 


How open data can help the Global South, from disaster relief to voter turnoutThe Conversation, 20 july 2017


Refining the Concept of Scientific Inference When Working with Big Data. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Proceedings of a Workshop. (2017)

United Nations World Data Forum wraps up.

First United Nations World Data Forum, Cape Town, 15-18 January 2017.


EIT Health Workshop “Data Privacy Regulation Day”, Paris, 17 Janunary





Blog posts 

⇒ Blog series on “What kind of Data Revolution do we need for post-2015?” with a broad variety of positions: 


⇒ Donors and a Data Revolution” by Amanda Glassman, CGD, focusing on funding for statistics in developing countries 


⇒ A Data Revolution” of the People, by the People, and for the People – Not Just for Advocates” by Mead Over, CGD. 


Useful links


Data Revolution Group
The UN Secretary General's Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development


Paris 21
The Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century 
A hub for ideas, debate and resources on what comes after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)


Online Lecture Series: BD2K Guide to the Fundamentals of Data Science
Series starts Friday 9 September 2016 and will run all year once per week at 12noon-1pm Easter Time/9am-10am Pacific Time.  No registration is required.


IUSSP Scientific Panel on Big Data and Population Processes, co-chaired by Francesco Billari (University of Oxford) and Emilio Zagheni (University of Washington)


IUSSP Scientific Panel on Innovations for Strengthening Vital Registration Systems, chaired by Patrick Gerland (United Nations Population Division).