Web giants help UN track global poverty

Web giants help UN track global poverty

Google and Cisco develop site to raise awareness of socio-economic problems

The United Nations, Google and Cisco have developed a website that tracks progress towards decreasing global poverty.

The MDG Monitor project was launched by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon who highlighted the urgent need to increase global cooperation to tackle these global issues.

The initiative forms part of a global campaign known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by world leaders from 189 countries in New York in 2000.

"Achieving the goals is a truly global task, requiring governments, international organisations, private companies and civil society to work together," said Ki-moon.

"I thank Google and Cisco for helping us create the MDG Monitor, an example of the kind of innovative partnerships we need."

The goals call for realistic and quantifiable progress in eradicating global blights such as extreme poverty and hunger, as well as tackling primary education, diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, gender inequality, child mortality and environmental sustainability.

MDG Monitor tracks progress toward the goals in a number of categories in nearly every country in the world.

The site presents the most current data from multiple sources in development areas like public health, education and women's empowerment.

By laying out areas of progress and continuing challenge, MDG Monitor aspires to keep the global community's eye firmly fixed on the Millennium Goals, and to provide vital information for policy makers and development practitioners worldwide.

MDG Monitor allows visitors to use Google Earth to 'fly' anywhere on the planet and explore the places where work is being done, as well as access country assessments and data collected by the UN.

The UN hopes that this will enable people to better understand the MDGs and what it will take to achieve them. This information will soon appear as a Global Awareness layer in Google Earth, and is currently available for download on the MDG Monitor website.

"We at Google are honoured to join the UN Development Programme in making this valuable data more accessible to the public," said Michael T Jones, chief technical officer of Google Earth, Google Maps and Google Local.

"It is our hope that the MDGs and issues of human development will become more openly and frequently discussed, and we believe Google Earth and its users around the world can play an important role in making that happen."

Cisco provided expert consultancy as well as technical and financial support for MDG Monitor's development.

"Cisco believes that the power of technology, along with human ingenuity in deploying it, can effectively address global socio-economic issues and lead to sustainable change," said Carlos Dominguez, senior vice president at Cisco.

"We also understand the critical importance of working in partnership with others to help make the MDGs a reality.

"Cisco is proud to be a part of this worthy effort and firmly believes the MDG Monitor can effectively guide expertise and resources to those in need while highlighting the successes of others in reaching these important goals."

Although almost eight years have passed since the MDGs were first introduced, UN figures estimate that just short of one billion people live on less than one dollar a day, and that every year six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday.

In deeply impoverished nations fewer than half of children are in primary school and fewer than 20 per cent go to secondary school.