Panel: “Open Data” Key to Reaching SDGs

An Alumniportal Deutschland webinar held on held June 28, 2017 examined how access to information, knowledge, and open data can play a critical role in helping attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Entitled “Open Data and the SDGs,” the event was moderated by Allana Nelson of the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) and featured presentations by Nnenna Nwakanma, a Senior Policy Manager at the WorldWebFoundation, and Manuel Yamada, a member of MateriaBrasil who describes herself as “an enthusiastic industrial designer entrepreneur who believes we can change the system through collaborative work.”

So what is “Open Data” and why is it important? Wikipedia describes Open Data as “the idea that some data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.” Or, as described by Ms. Nwakanma, it’s the “legal freedom to use and re-use” data. When applied to SDG attainment, Ms. Nwakanma argued that this freedom is nothing short of elemental. “If we want to go from where we are to where we are not, then we need to be able to evaluate.”

In other words, how can one measure progress toward an outcome like an SDG without having clear, transparent markers with which to measure progress (or lack thereof). This is where the World Web Foundation’s Open Data Barometer comes into play. Ranking 115 countries, the barometer measures how each publishes and uses Open Data in order to promote and facilitate accountability, innovation and social impact. According to the Open Baroeter website, the barometer’s country rankings are based on three criteria: readiness for Open Data initiatives; implementation of Open Data programmes; and impact that Open Data is having on business, politics and civil society.

Manuela Yamada then gave a stark presentation of the impediments to the free and open sharing of data. Ms. Yamada noted that in 2017 the top eight richest individuals on earth possessed the same wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the world’s population, a stunning dynamic that was only possible because those at the top had “been given the rights and ownership” to public goods, including data and proprietary licenses. Ms. Yamada argued that making data truly open and accessible to anyone who wants it would allow collaborative innovation as opposed to bitter competition. As an example she cited the Brazilian government’s bypassing of pharmaceutical giant Merck’s patent on an expensive HIV/AIDS drug in 2007, a move that obviously angered Merck but was a boon to millions of Brazilians suffering from the virus.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Decent work for all – how does it affect the remaining SDGs?

Poverty decreases in many parts of the world. But at the same time as millions get out of poverty major challenges remain for the world to solve: income gaps increase and changes in climate must be stopped. By adopting the sustainable development goals, all of the member states of the UN decided to together ensure that no one is living in extreme poverty, reducing the inequalities of the world and combat climate change.

How does goal 8, promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, affect the remaining goals in the 2030 agenda? And what role does the tray unions play, with more than 180 million members in all professional sectors across the globe?

In the recent decades, globalization has changed the global labor market. The labor force has become more mobile and industrialization has accelerated in several developing countries. An increased trade favors economic growth in the world, but there are also major challenges. The economic gaps have increased within countries and many people still live in deep poverty. In order to reduce the world’s injustices, an inclusive and long-term sustainability is needed, economic growth as well as full and productive employment with decent working conditions for all.

Goal 1: Extreme poverty will once and for all be eradicated by 2030. It is not just about economic poverty but also lack of power, security and health. Through both political advocacy and negotiations, unions around the world work with the aim to make states and employers take responsibility in this area and that social protection is seen as a right for all.


Goal 5: An unfair distribution of economic resources, power and influence hinder sustainable development. This affects millions of women and girls worldwide who do not have the same rights as men and boys. But this is also a problem for the society as a whole since women and girls are not given the same opportunity to contribute with their resources and knowledge. Tray unions work primarily through collective agreements for equal pay for equal work.

Goal 10: Inequality within and between countries need to reduce to create a sustainable social development. The collective agreement is an effective model for equalize these income gaps. Agreements and legislation often need to be supplemented with global framework agreements, signed between global trade unions and multinational companies, so that for example all colleagues in a particular company have the same rights and opportunities to influence their own work situation.

Goal 16: For sustainable development, we need to promote peaceful and inclusive societies and an important requirement for this is functioning and independent institutions and legal certainty for all. By organizing and representing workers tray unions give a voice to the workers in political decision making. Also, independent and safe professional practicing for, for example, journalists and teachers are also fundamental keys for democracy.

The underlying analysis is that more people need safe working conditions, be in the formal working sector, have fair wages and a safe working environment. Forced and child labor must be eliminated. Tray union strategies and tools such as education, campaigns and signing of collective agreements – are proven methods for sustainable work development which also affects other goals in the 2030 agenda positively.

However, although many ICT-related innovations have created new forms of data that can be used for enhancing the efficiency in several areas of economic activities, the attempts to use big data in context of labor market monitoring have been relatively rare so far, even though a growing interest can be observed among researches and practitioners alike. Therefor applying big data in labor market monitoring can provide insights into the functioning of labor markets around the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Decent work for all – how does it affect the remaining SDGs?

No Identification in the Digital Age

Source: UN Women/Fatma Elzahraa Yassin;

In today’s digital age, many people are worried about having their identity stolen and used for nefarious purposes, but what if you never had an official identity?

Astonishingly, almost 1 in 7 people throughout the world cannot prove their identity, that’s just over 1.1 billion people. This lack of proper identification restricts these peoples access to essential services such as education, social protection, financial services, and healthcare. The majority of these people live in the developing world, particularly in Africa and Asia and more than a third of them are children who are not registered at birth.

Within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) there is a focus on getting those without identification into the system. Specifically, in SDG target 16.9: “By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.” Forgoing the obvious benefit of registering people within their national system, it will also make attainment of many other SDG goals possible. This is theoretically possible in two ways. The first being that people who obtained identification would have access to the many of the targets discussed in the goals such as, healthcare, education, and political rights. The second way would involve the ability to collect data to inform whether SDGs were being accomplished more accurately. The improved data/statistics would also better serve governments to use resources more efficiently and better inform future policies.

In order to better address this issue, just last week, the World Bank Group’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative launched a High Level Advisory Council to advance the realisation of robust, inclusive, and responsible digital identification systems as a sustainable development priority. The group, co-chaired by the World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva and United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, will deliver strategic guidance to the ID4D initiative and engage international forums and countries to advocate its vision. The council had their inaugural meeting last week to discuss opportunities, challenges, and emerging trends that countries face in getting identification for those without it.

The meeting also coincided with the release of a report titled, Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development: Towards the Digital Age. The report lays out ten principles (see figure A), with a focus on technology as a major part of identification expansion. ID4D is looking at the digital age and its advances in digital and biometric identification technology as a way forward over traditional paper based identification. They also believe mobile devices provide a promising solution to enroll and authenticate individuals with unique identification, especially in more rural or remote areas.

Figure A, Source: World Bank

While the premise of identification for all is a lofty goal, as are most of the SDGs, this does not mean it is unattainable. At the same time, the development community including the ID4D program and those like it, must be cautious in its implementation. Positive examples of modern ID technology allow both countries and their people to prosper, such as the biometric technology in Pakistan which ensures women receive cash transfers directly which empowers them to decide how the money should be spent. On the other end of the spectrum we have hazier uses such as the social credit system set to be implemented in China by 2020 which will compile fiscal and government information, including social media commentary, in a single score (for more on this 1984-esque system check out this story). One thing that remains true above all is that the more people who have identification the higher chance of accurate development data, which can be utilized to formulate future development policy and projects. It will be up to the development community to sort and utilize this information constructively.


Hatton, C. (2015, October 26). China ‘social credit’: Beijing sets up huge system. Retrieved
October 15, 2017, from

Meier, P. (2015). Digital humanitarians : how big data is changing the face of humanitarian
response. Retrieved from

World Bank Group. (n.d.). Identification for Development (ID4D). Retrieved October 18,
2017, from

World Bank Group. (2017, October 12). Principles on Identification for Sustainable
Development: Towards the Digital Age (Rep.). Retrieved October 15, 2017, from
World Bank Group website:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Information sharing – big data is fun!

Mostly we have been discussing the importance of big data concerning policy making and accountability as well as discussing the vital importance of trustworthy and updated data. It is also important to raise awareness of the importance of information sharing to the general public.

What is the average life expectancy in Vietnam? If you would make a guess you would probably not be right. Most people believe that the situation in the world is much worse than it actually is. Information understanding and sharing is of great importance for raising awareness of the great development that has been made in the world the last decades.

Hans Rosling, was a swedish researcher and educator that is commonly known by swedes for having explained facts and big data in a very pedagogic way raising awareness of the positive and fast global development being made in the last two centuries. His easy and accessible way of explaining big numbers in an understandable way is something every swede knows him for.

Below, a video from 2009 where Hans Rosling explains the development of average life expectancy of 200 countries the last 200 years.


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Goal 4: Quality Education

According to goal 4, Ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Educating children, especially girls, is crucial to eliminating poverty. It is closely related to other sustainable development goals (SDGs) such as health, gender equality, peace and stability.

All developing counties of the world have almost achieved equal enrolment of boys and girls in primary school. This seems to be a great achievement. But in sub-Saharan Africa, only 23 percent of poor rural girls finish primary education. Gender gaps widen significantly in regions in secondary and degree studies. Education is a human right, so that each and every person should get equal education. It helps to empowers individuals and to increase well-being and also contributes to a broader social and economic growths. Improved education accounts for about 50 percent of economic growths in organisation of economic co-operation and development countries over past five decades. So for all girls and boys, men and women, education must be available across their lifetimes.

Relationship of quality education with businesses:

Businesses must understand that education is not only a key factor for poverty eradication but also crucial to develop the future workspace, foster innovation and generate stable and more prosperous societies. They need to take proactive roles in education, using their expert skills and interest in innovation to create shared value. In practice this means raising educational performance levels, shaping aspirations and creating a productive workforce.

A number of companies already use this approach in their education programs. Coca-Cola runs an educational program in the U.K. with Education centres in their factories hosting workshops on manufacturing and innovation. Barclays works with NGO partners worldwide to educate young people with skills needed to find job. H&M has focused on increasing access to early childhood development programs and graduate programs. Tata Consultancy Services runs an adult literacy program in India. IKEA runs a young professional graduate program where they train a young upcoming graduate.

Businesses also can play an important role in addressing the periphery issues that hinder education by aligning operations, employee skills and also investments. For example

  • UNICEF has shown that WASH projects in schools can increase school attendance and performance. Unilever’s sanitation program provides hygienic toilet facilities in schools.
  • Agroamerica supplemented children’s diets with bananas to combat malnutrition and reinforced the health and hygiene education of families.
  • Capgemini provides underprivileged girls in India with academic support and material support in the form if uniforms, clothes and stationery.

Other thing we must remember is that education is a universal issue. An educational program in a developing country will look different to one in Europe. But in both cases, businesses have a lot to give and a lot to gain by harnessing their expertise to secure a quality education for all people. Many organisations promote this cause using a campaign. ONE Organisation recently launched a digital campaign in order to demand education for all girls and women. Poverty is sexist, girls in the poorest countries are less likely to receive an education than boys. #GirlsCount campaign launched to promote or to demand quality and equal education for all.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Goal 4: Quality Education

Is “Decoupling” a Realistic Strategy for Achieving the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda is predicated on the belief that it is possible for countries to sustain economic growth without relying on unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. The buzzword denoting this aspirational paradigm is “decoupling”, which is defined, broadly, as to separate, disengage, or dissociate [one thing] from something else. In SDG terms, decoupling requires “all countries, rich and poor, to adopt sustainable technologies and behaviors that decouple economic growth from unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.”

The idea of decoupling is attractive because it implies that we can continue to enjoy the benefits of business-as-usual economic growth by simply decoupling this growth from the harmful production and consumption patterns that have caused icebergs to melt, extreme weather events to proliferate, and global temperatures to rise at unprecedented rates.

It is for this reason that many critics argue that the concept of decoupling is nothing more than a Neoliberal Fantasy which gives “force to a vision of a ‘sustainable development’ for neoliberal capitalist economies, and in the process provid[es] essential ideological support to the SDG agenda.”

These critics argue that the concept of decoupling fails to challenge the existence of a neoliberal capitalist system that has “internalized” the environmental impacts of growth. In other words, critics say that the capitalist system underpinning the SDG agenda is the same economic model that is responsible for today’s environmental catastrophes.

To better visualize this disconnect, think of one of those beautifully produced television ads extolling the work of a major oil company like Exxon Mobil or BP. If you didn’t know better, you’d be forgiven for thinking these companies existed only to better mankind through the development of new, clean technologies that will bring the world back from the brink of environmental Armageddon. But none of these ads tell the viewer to consume less household energy, to ride bikes instead of driving cars, or to move off the grid. And that’s because encouraging the type of consumption patterns that could advance the SDGs are incompatible with an oil company’s bottom line.

Look at Elon Musk’s Tesla car company, whose direct-to-consumer sales model has faced stiff opposition from car dealerships across the U.S. The purported reasons for this opposition are issues such as safety standards and consumer protection. But in reality, the U.S auto industry doesn’t want Tesla dealing directly with the consumer because it cuts out the “middleman”, who, in this case is of course car dealerships across the U.S. Another underlying reason is that Tesla’s electric cars threaten many of the income generating services—such as oil changes, battery replacement, and tune-ups—that are the lifeline of traditional car dealerships.

Back to the SDGs and decoupling. Can we realistically expect the private sector to act against its own short-term interests in order to pursue a set of well-intended but highly aspirational development goals? Or are these expectations akin to asking a fox to provide security for the inhabitants of a henhouse?

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Is “Decoupling” a Realistic Strategy for Achieving the SDGs?

Ending poverty while some go uncounted?

Big data could be seen as a catalyst for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. The volume of data created every day is exploding and opening new possibilities for policy making. However, while the amount of digital data being created globally is constantly increasing and enabling more information, only 0,5 percent of it is ever analyzed. Because of this many people – including some of the most vulnerable population groups – still go uncounted. Potentially 250 million people worldwide are not being covered by household surveys which in other words could mean that as many as 25-30 percent more people could be living on less than $1.90 a day than current estimates suggest.

Despite much progress since the 70s, about 1 billion people still live in extreme poverty and progress has been extremely uneven across countries and localities. The quality of data and its accessibility play a critical role in measuring poverty, identifying the poor, and monitoring progress in poverty reduction. However, progress is uneven across countries and data is often most scarce where the challenges of poverty are most severe, such as in many low-income countries.

The World Banks Independent Evaluation Department (IEG) published in 2015 an evaluation of the World Bank’s poverty reduction efforts. The report, The Poverty Focus of Country Programs: Lessons from World Bank Experience looks at five features of country poverty programs and present how its programs aiming to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030 – consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals – faces many obstacles, among them the lack of regularly reported, high quality data. The evaluations names that of the 139 countries classified as low- and middle-income economies, 22 have no data for the past three decades, some 30 countries have not had a household survey in the past decade, and some 20 more have had only one survey since 2000. More than one-third of these countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Collecting data, processing data and turning it into information as well as using data and making it open for others to use and re-use all have costs. Deciding how much money to spend on data, as opposed to other priorities, is an economic and a political decision, and spending more money on data will not always be the right choice. Although research in this area is still limited, there is some evidence that more open data and new methods of data collection and use, can save money and create economic, social and environmental value.

The use of digital communication technologies, and of mobile phones in particular, has seen a great rise in low- and middle-income countries over the last decade. To take the Sub-Saharan African region as an example, the number of mobile phone subscribers has increased at a rate of 18 per cent annually since 2007, reaching a total of 253 million in 2013. These digital traces, also called born digital data, are becoming seen by policymakers and researchers as a potential solution to the lack of reliable statistical data on lower-income countries.

Given the high cost and local capacity building required to improve country-level data collection, using large-scale, born digital datasets may provide representations for some indicators important to international development policymakers, making it a progressively attractive option. Born digital data stands for data that is digital from the start rather than starting out in non-digital form.

In many lower-income countries not only reliable data is missing but just as importantly, the resources to gather those data are generally absent and unlikely to emerge in the near future due to cost and capacity building issues. It is critical for all populations to be counted and this only adds to the importance of collecting timely and accurate information since to be counted means potentially obtaining access to vital resources, particularly talking about ending poverty in all its forms everywhere.


Carr-Hill, R. (2013) Missing Millions and Measuring Development Progress. Elsevier Ltd, World Development Vol. 46, pp. 30–44

World Bank (2015) The Poverty Focus of Country Programs: Lessons from World Bank Experience. World Bank Publications, Washington DC 

Taylor, L., Schroeder R. 2015: Is bigger better? The emergence of big data as tool for international development policy. GeoJournal 80: 503-528.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What’s Happening With World Hunger?

As a group the focus of our blog has been based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the impact of social media and data thereupon.  Like their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs have set high expectations upon the world governments and the development community as a whole.  With these lofty goals the question then remains what percentage of these can in fact be reasonably attained.

As analysing the entirety of the MDGs and SDGs would constitute a massive undertaking, this post will draw parallels between MDG Goal 1 Target 1C (Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger) and SDG Goal 2: Zero Hunger.

According to the MDG Report released in July 2015, Target 1C to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger was almost accomplished.  Looking at figure A, we can see that the percentage of those suffering from hunger went down from 23.3% in 1990-92 to 12.9% in 2014-2016.  Despite the promising results, the report was aware of growing refugee and conflict issues at the conclusion of its report yet indicated that eradicating poverty and hunger remained at the core of the post-2015 development agenda.

Figure A, Source: MDG Report 2015

In direct contrast to the progress made during the period of the MDGs, the number of hungry people in the world has increased for the first time since 2000, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report released by five UN agencies (FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO) released last month. According to the report, which is the first UN global assessment of food security and nutrition following the adoption of the SDGs, the percentage of undernourished went from 10.6% in 2015 to 11% in 2016 (see figure B).  While this proportion may not seem very large, it is significant in that it has increased at all, particularly when we look back to the MDG figures which showed a steady decrease.

Figure B, Source: FAO 2017

This alarming rise has been attributed to a greater number of conflicts, often aggravated by climate-related shocks. Over the past year, hunger has reached extreme levels in many parts of the world, famine was declared in South Sudan in February, and Northeast Nigeria and Somalia are considered on the brink. The increase in world hunger also brings into question whether the SDG target of zero percent hunger is even attainable.

Cindy Holleman, a senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organisation, stated “whether it has been a blip and it’s going to go back down again, we’re not sure, but we’re sending warning signals. We are sending a message that something is going on.” (McVeigh, 2017).

Whether the data indicates a blip or not, it must be seen as a call to action to world leaders and development institutions to increase their efforts if the SDGs are to be reached.  At the moment we are seeing increases in world hunger but the causes, conflict and climate change may further impact various SDG as time continues on.



FAO, IFAID, UNICEF, WFP, & WHO. (2017). The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017(Rep.). Rome: FAO.

McVeigh, K. (2017, September 15). ‘Alarm bells we cannot ignore’: world hunger rising for first time this century. Retrieved October 06, 2017, from

The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015(Rep.). (2015). New York, New York: United Nations.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A new sustainable development agenda

People around the world demanded for equal world by eradicating poverty, inequality etc. To turn these demands into actions, world leaders gathered on 25th September 2015, at the United Nations in New York to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 2030 Agenda comprises 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 targets that all 191 UN Member States have agreed to achieve by the year 2030. The SDGs follow and expand on the millennium development goals (MDGs), which were agreed and proposed by government in 2001. The new SDGs, go much beyond than the MDGs, addressing the root causes of poverty and universal need for development that helps for all the people around the world.

This new development agenda applies to all countries, which helps to promote peaceful societies, creates better job, provides equality and tackles the environmental challenges especially climate change.

What are the SDGs?

  • End poverty in all its forms everywhere around the world.
  • End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and also promoting sustainable agriculture all over the world.
  • Ensure healthy lives for people and promote well-being for all people at all ages.
  • Ensure equal and quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
  • To achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
  • Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
  • To provide access towards affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
  • To promote sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
  • Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation.
  • To reduce inequality within and among countries.
  • Make cities, communities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
  • Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  • Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
  • Conserve life below water and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
  • Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
  • Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
  • Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for all sustainable development.

These are 17 developmental goals set by world leaders. In response to the allegation that the MDGs were too narrow in focus, the SDGs set out to tackle a whole range of issues, from gender inequality to climate change. Also the SDGs are universal, which means they are equally applicable to all countries which includes targets from rich countries as well as poor countries without any discrimination or inequality.

Are the SDGs sufficiently ambitious and transformative?

One goal among these 17 goals was to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Since the term sustainable is given, this is considered as one of the top goal. According to the reports, the targets to this goal are noticeably weak. An important target on investing in low carbon solutions, which had appeared in early OWG drafts, was dropped, and there is now no concrete commitment to mitigate climate change itself. The SDGs also miss a crucial opportunity to effectively question and reform unjust global institutional arrangements. They have some serious disadvantages and all this goals are not fully transformative.

The main strength of the SDGs is that they provide official, global identification to an achievement, besides economic growth, that have come to be related with the term ‘development’, such as sustainability, gender equality, poverty eradication, and participatory decision-making. It is considered Agenda 2030 will seriously change the world for the better.

Even so, the SDGs sometimes disappoint as much as they impress.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Are we achieving the SDGs, and is the data credible?

The timeliness and necessity of setting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be obvious to most compassionate, sentient people. Other than staunch climate deniers and isolationists, who wouldn’t want a world in which poverty is eradicated, climate change is addressed, and peaceful, inclusive societies are built by the year 2030?

Yet a casual look at the global news headlines seems to indicate that the world is moving away from—rather than toward—attainment of the SDGs. While there’s no question that global poverty rates have indeed dropped over the past three decades, there’s evidence that many of these gains—especially in the Global South—are increasingly threatened by climate change. This is because rising temperatures cause spikes in food and energy prices, which in turn lead to high rates of rural-to-urban migration into the coastal cities which are most vulnerable to future climate-related disasters.

Elsewhere on the climate-change front, what message do countries in the Global South receive when a wealthy country like the United States threatens to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords (even as its own territory—Florida, Puerto Rico, and Texas—is ravaged by climate-induced extreme weather events)?

And when it comes to building peaceful inclusive societies, it’s difficult not to look at conflicts in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen and not feel despair.

Not even the most ardent supporters of the SDGs believe that all the 27 SDGs could be attained by 2030. But a look at the UN’s own progress assessment is worrying, to say the least. A July 2017 news release summarizing a major assessment report notes dryly that “Pace of progress must accelerate to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

A close read of the press release provides cause for concern. We are told that “while progress has been made over the past decade across all areas of development, the pace of progress has been insufficient and advancements have been uneven to fully meet the implementation of the SDGs.”

This is not necessarily news, as previous assessments have similarly warned that more needs to be done, and fast. But the penultimate paragraph of the press release revealed more about the challenge of SDG attainment than the authors perhaps intended: “Effectively tracking progress on the SDGs requires accessible, reliable, timely and disaggregated data at all levels, which poses a major challenge to national and international statistical systems. While data availability and quality have steadily improved over the years, statistical capacity still needs strengthening worldwide.”

In other words, the architects of the SDGs seem to be acknowledging that the data with which they produce their progress reports derives from inadequate systems that are not yet capable of delivering “accessible, reliable, timely and disaggregated” data. It’s not a surprise that many countries, especially in the Global South, lack the infrastructure and human capacity to generate meaningful data. (That’s one of the reasons why development is needed in the first place). But building the infrastructure and developing the human capacity to gather credible data is likely to take many, many years. Which in turn begs the question of whether we are using the correct metrics at the correct time to measure what are, at best, difficult-to-quantity and highly subjective outcomes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Are we achieving the SDGs, and is the data credible?