The world at seven billion

When the world’s population grew beyond seven billion people in October this year, SAP and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) unveiled two online, interactive population dashboards that allowed public users to freely access UN demographic data on the impact of this historic rise. Anne Widjaja reports.

The UNFPA’s aim in launching the 7 Billion Actions campaign was to recognise that the world’s population of seven billion was a milestone in human history. Most importantly, however, the campaign highlighted that this remarkable figure represented global opportunities and equally sizeable challenges.

Using SAP business analytics technology to create the dashboards, the UNFPA has pooled together, into one single online platform, data that would have taken months to collate from hundreds of schools, government departments and UN agencies (www.7billionactions.org).  With just a few clicks, anyone around the world can access and interact with the data on their mobile or laptop, and learn about the impact of the population increase in key areas such as education, healthcare, literacy and age and gender development.
Vijay Kanal, director, ICT advisory services, BSR, says that the technology will be valuable for experts, regardless of industry.

“SAP has provided a useful, intuitive tool that provides important global demographic data. I can imagine that planning and policy experts in both the public and private sectors will find it helpful for analysis and projections.”

Using the data
Released on the first day of the ‘7-Day Countdown to 7 Billion’, the dashboards have the power to inform and inspire policymakers, academics, citizens and businesses to consider the social effect of their policies and initiatives.  The data produced by the SAP Crystal Reports dashboard design software can be used to highlight important insights into developmental issues, and helps to create added transparency and awareness around core UN population data and trends. For example, the snapshot tool reveals that two-thirds of the world’s population (1.8 billion) is currently under 40, the biggest generation of young people in history.  The UNFPC has reported that this poses potential challenges for poor developing nations in Asia and Africa, where the population of young people aged 10-24 is predicted to increase 60 per cent between 2010-2050.  The ‘Trends’ tool on the dashboard can also be used to examine correlations between economic, social and demographic variables, specific to any region or country in the world. For example, in Pakistan 21 per cent of its 42 million children are enrolled in secondary school, 43 per cent of which are girls. This data presents a powerful argument for policymakers to recognise the need to increase education levels amongst children, and to rectify the gender imbalance in these education statistics.

This modelling demonstrates how SAP analytical technology can help users easily interact with data and understand the opportunities and challenges associated with a complex array of variables.

Innovating for the new world
The UNFPA’s global campaign has enlisted a diverse group of UN actors, corporations, organisations and individuals to inspire action on key issues related to population growth.  Together with the Churchill Club, SAP and UNFPA recently presented at an executive roundtable titled ‘Innovating for a World of 7 Billion’, which saw experts sharing ideas and information on emerging markets, sustainability and impact investing. Following the event, SAP, UNFPA and social entrepreneur organisation Ashoka held a social InnoJam, which was focused on the importance of using mobility solutions to educate, connect and empower youths.

“The world’s population reaching 7 billion people presents an excellent opportunity for technology to play an active role in the global commitment for a healthy and sustainable world,” says Steve Lucas, general manager, Business Analytics and Technology, SAP.

Although technology is not the only answer to solving the world’s problems, this project shows just how it can play a part in helping us to secure a brighter, globally sustainable future.


This article was first published in Inside SAP December 2011.

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