Facebook Unveils Project17 to Help Meet United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals

The company teamed up with Ladysmith in a report covering gender data needs and constraints

This Displacement Map shows trends from South Wales to other areas in Australia following the Cuddle Creek Fire Facebook

Facebook Tuesday introduced Project17, a new initiative aimed at establishing partnership to help meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations adopted in 2015.

Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg revealed a five-year pledge at the U.N. General Assembly last September to leverage the company’s data and resources in order to help partners advance progress on the SDGs.

Over the past six months, Facebook met with partners and experts including Data2x, Girl Effect and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data to better understand gender data needs and constraints.

The social network teamed up with independent research firm Ladysmith to conduct those interviews, review academic research and produce a report identifying areas where tech companies can help strengthen the gender data ecosystem and pinpointing gender data gaps across many different areas, including the data used by policymakers to inform decisions and the data used to understand global challenges such as climate change induced migration.

The report was unveiled Tuesday, “on the heels of International Women’s Day and inspired by the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women,” vice president of global partnerships, business and corporate development Marne Levine wrote in a Newsroom post Tuesday.

She added, “The report also found a lack of communication between tech companies and gender equality organizations, recommending that they work closer together to close gender data gaps. It suggests that tech companies leverage their resources, including data scientists, to uncover new insights from existing data; share some of their own privacy-protected, de-identified datasets; and develop new tools to help researchers answer critical questions.”

Levine also detailed Facebook’s plans to work with development organizations, experts and other trusted partners to leverage its dataset in order to bridge gender data gaps, answer research questions and help drive progress on gender equality.

The social network will provide breakdowns of some of its Data for Good work, including its Displacement Maps, part of its Disaster Maps product, which share real-time data on population movement with humanitarian response agencies, with the aim of helping to determine community-specific needs in times of crisis.

Levine wrote, “Our partner, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, explained how sharing this data could help humanitarian aid agencies meet the needs of affected communities more efficiently. Early results show that partners with access to these maps understand what proportion of those displaced are men and women, where women are relocating and when they are able to return. All of these calculations use aggregated and de-identified data from people using Facebook on their devices who have opted in to location history.”

The company is also teaming up with the World Bank Group and EqualMeasures2030 to conduct a global survey focused on gender equality via the wide reach of Facebook’s family of applications.

And Facebook is working with the Institute for Technology and Social Change (TechChange) to develop educational tools for sharing information about how conventional datasets can be used in gender and development projects.

Levine wrote, “Throughout 2020, we’ll continue to explore what datasets we should build to provide helpful insights based on the priorities identified in the report. Again, all data shared will be anonymized, aggregated and de-identified.”

She concluded, “It will take more than data to achieve gender equality and reach the SDGs. We need deeper collaboration between tech companies and development organizations to pave a path forward. The tech community has resources, unique data and data science capacity. Academics and practitioners within the gender and development community have thematic expertise and proximity to affected communities. We hope Project17 helps our partners make progress on the SDGs and that our focus on gender data does its part to help improve gender equality around the world.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.