Back to OurEnergyLibrary search

Harnessing the Data Revolution to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Harnessing the Data Revolution to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Full Title: Harnessing the Data Revolution to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Author(s): Erol Yayboke, Erin Nealer, & Charles Rice
Publisher(s): Center for Strategic and International Studies
Publication Date: September 1, 2017
Full Text: Download Resource
Description (excerpt):

Functioning societies collect accurate data and utilize the evidence to inform policy. The use of evidence derived from data in policymaking requires the capability to collect and analyze accurate data, clear administrative channels through which timely evidence is made available to decisionmakers, and the political will to rely on—and ideally share—the evidence. The collection of accurate and timely data, especially in the developing world, is often logistically difficult, not politically expedient, and/or expensive.

Before launching its second round of global goals—the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—the United Nations convened a High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. As part of its final report, the Panel called for a “data revolution” and recommended the formation of an independent body to lead the charge.1The report resulted in the creation of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD)—an independent group of countries, companies, data communities, and NGOs—and the SDG Data Labs, a private initiative partnered with the GPSDD. In doing so the United Nations and its partners signaled broad interest in data and evidence-based policymaking at a high level. In fact, the GPSDD calls for the “revolution in data” by addressing the “crisis of non-existent, inaccessible or unreliable data.”As this report shows, this is easier said than done.

This report defines the data revolution as an unprecedented increase in the volume and types of data—and the subsequent demand for them—thanks to the ongoing yet uneven proliferation of new technologies. This revolution is allowing governments, companies, researchers, and citizens to monitor progress and drive action, often with real-time, dynamic, disaggregated data. Much work will be needed to make sure the data revolution reaches developing countries facing difficult challenges (i.e., before the data revolution fully becomes the data revolution for sustainable development). It is important to think of the revolution as a multistep process, beginning with building basic knowledge and awareness of the value of data. This is followed by a more specific focus on public private partnerships, opportunities, and constraints regarding collection and utilization of data for evidence-based policy decisions.

Unlike the common perception of “revolution” as being relatively quick, broad, and transformational, the data revolution may be slow, country context specific, and incremental. Building on the momentum created by the adoption of the SDGs in late 2015,3the international community can have a critical role to play in supporting national agendas and driving development.

This report analyzes the challenges and opportunities that exist in the pursuit of the data revolution. It considers the challenges faced by two developing countries—Laos and Myanmar—in the broader context of what will be needed to enable “leapfrog” data technologies to take hold and ultimately drive the data revolution without following the linear progression of development laid out by OECD countries. To achieve this outcome, developing countries will need to build domestic institutional capacity to use and maintain new technologies, understand and analyze the data collected, and identify and implement change based on that analysis.

All statements and/or propositions in discussion prompts are meant exclusively to stimulate discussion and do not represent the views of, its Partners, Topic Directors or Experts, nor of any individual or organization. Comments by and opinions of Expert participants are their own.

Sign up for our Press Release Distribution List

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)

    Please sign me up to receive press releases from