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UN adopts Tableau as global standard to augment decision support

The United Nations has struck a deal with data visualisation software supplier Tableau to extend its use as an organisation-wide standard

The United Nations (UN) has announced an agreement to use visual analytics software supplied by Tableau as a global standard.

Individual UN agencies already use Tableau. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency are all customers.

The new agreement will allow agencies in the 193 member states across the UN system to access Tableau at UN headquarters, in regional offices and in “country missions”.

The UN’s assistant secretary-general and chief information technology officer, Atefeh Riazi, said in a press statement that the deal “allows us to embrace data by making world-class visual analytics available to UN offices globally”. 

She added: “The UN is the guardian of an unparalleled database of the world’s socioeconomic and political history. Opening this data to the public and collaborating with partners will help us make better decisions that support the work of the UN.

Effective use of data can help us expand our knowledge of fundamental issues, such as social and political instability, natural disasters and climate change, to improve decision-making and enhance our ability to predict, and even pre-empt, the next crisis.

“I am proud of the role the UN is taking in the global data revolution and am excited to see what we can accomplish when we bring our partners to the table.”

The UN launched a Centre for Humanitarian Data in The Hague in December 2017. At that time, secretary-general António Guterres said: “Accurate data is the lifeblood of good policy and decision-making. Obtaining it, and sharing it across hundreds of organisations, in the middle of a humanitarian emergency, is complicated and time-consuming, but it is absolutely crucial.”

The “partnership” between the UN and Tableau would seem to be a step in the inter-governmental organisation’s data management programme. For example, Unicef, the UN relief agency for children and mothers in war zones, famine areas and other disaster regions, has been using data science to solve problems such as tracking refugees.

In a press statement on the new deal, Tableau said it is “the first US-based enterprise software company to sign a master global agreement with the UN”.

Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky added: “The scope, complexity and life-changing importance of the work being done across the UN has made easily understood data and insights more important than ever.

“Promoting peace and justice, ending poverty and ensuring all people have the opportunity to be seen and understood are values we share. We’ve seen how data helps bridge divides and advance those efforts. We are honoured to be a strategic partner in that process and help UN staff worldwide shape a better future for us all.”

Tableau has been doing pro bono work for the UN since 2015, through its philanthropic foundation, and said it has worked with the World Food Programme to deliver “real-time food security monitoring insights to decision-makers in the field”.

It has also worked with with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Humanitarian Data Exchange on efforts to improve access to data in disaster preparedness and response.

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