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Counting on the World to Act – A Roadmap for Governments to Achieve Modern Data Systems for Sustainable Development- Identifies Four Steps to Fight SDG Data Gaps

A publication by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS) identifies four building blocks for innovative and inclusive national data systems for SDGs. The recommendations respond to main data challenges identified in the report, including acute capacity gaps, lack of political leadership and inadequate financing.

Eradicating poverty and hunger, ensuring quality education, instituting affordable and clean energy, and more – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lay out a broad, ambitious vision for our world. But there is one common denominator that cuts across this agenda: data. Without timely, relevant, and disaggregated data, policymakers and their development partners will be unprepared to turn their promises into reality for communities worldwide. With only eleven years left to meet the goals, it is imperative that we focus on building robust, inclusive, and relevant national data systems to support the curation and promotion of better data for sustainable development. In Counting on the World to Act, TReNDS details an action plan for governments and their development partners that will enable them to help deliver the SDGs globally by 2030. The recommendations specifically aim to empower government actors – whether they be national statisticians, chief data scientists, chief data officers, ministers of planning, or others concerned with evidence in support of sustainable development – to advocate for, build, and lead a new data ecosystem.

‘Counting on the World to Act – A Roadmap for Governments to Achieve Modern Data Systems for Sustainable Development,’ suggests an action plan for governments and their development partners aimed at supporting the delivery of the SDGs by 2030 through building and leading a new data ecosystem. The recommendations have been designed for national statisticians, chief data scientists, chief data officers, ministers of planning and others concerned with evidence-based decision-making in support of sustainable development.

The report shows that while there are some signs of progress, such as growing evidence of satellite imagery and other innovative techniques being used to augment traditional statistical methods, “persistent” data gaps and lags remain in many countries.

For instance, countries in Africa and Asia, on average, have data available to monitor only 20% of SDG indicators, and only 35% of sub-Saharan African countries have poverty data collected since 2015. The authors also note that policymakers struggle to accurately track the estimated 25.4 million refugees missing from national statistics worldwide, and to monitor shoreline change to curb erosion rates within 24% of the world’s sandy beaches.

The publication underscores that world leaders and their development partners need better information to assess progress, make real-time course corrections – explained as redirecting services and investments in response to most pressing needs – and craft forward-looking projections. According to the authors, this requires that intra-national datasets can be compatibly integrated as parts of planetary-scale evaluations.

To that end, the report proposes four building blocks for an effective and inclusive national data system:

  • Strong leadership and governance with an empowered national statistician or relevant national data coordinator who is open and enabled to collaborate with third parties, and is actively encouraging a more inclusive international statistical system;
  • Common principles, standards and policy frameworks to ensure data comparability and the capacity to integrate data from different sources, as well as a supportive environment for collaboration;
  • An open, user-centric system that actively supports public and private data demands, collaboration and innovation at local, national and international levels; and
  • A “robust” funding model that ensures the long-term production of vital data.

The publication details how collaboration among a broad set of actors must occur across all stages of the data process, from collection and cleaning through dissemination and analysis, as well as the institutional arrangements, roles and responsibilities, and incentives necessary to catalyze this multi-stakeholder collaboration.

The recommendations provided are inspired by best practices and examples from Bangladesh, Colombia and the Philippines, among others, which are presented to illustrate the power of governments to make needed changes even when constrained by resources.(IISD)

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About: TReNDS is a network of experts catalyzing learning and investment in the data revolution for development. Learn more about their mission.