Big Data to Fill the Gap
To maintain the promise made by Agenda 2030 to ‘leave no one behind’, tracking SDGs needs to pay special attention to the most vulnerable – women, youth, the elderly, and rural and migrant populations among other disadvantaged groups. Data that allows us to zoom to get finer detail is required. While national level statistics can only show aggregate improvements, new data can be the key to have a granular picture on the progress being made.
There are strong incentives to implement new methodologies in order to produce higher quality statistics. The ambitious 2030 Agenda endorsed across the globe by nearly every member nation will be all but impossible to achieve without greater availability of quality, timely data which governments may leverage to make evidence-based decisions, and for citizens to hold them accountable. In order to realize the stated goal of ‘leaving no one behind’ responding to the multifaceted challenges of sustainable development, there is an urgent need to obtain disaggregated data along different dimensions such as gender, age and socio-economic status. Although data availability and statistical capacity have improved over the years, there is still work to be done. For this reason SDG 17 explicitly seeks to foster a ‘Data Revolution’ – to create a comprehensive and systematic indicator framework that includes improved data capacity, monitoring and accountability.
The 2017 Report on Sustainable Development by Secretary General Antonio Guterres emphasized this point in particular, underscoring “the need for reliable, timely, accessible and disaggregated data to measure progress, inform decision-making and ensure that everyone is counted”. The prospects of actualizing such a goal are strong; current technological capacities already allow for such data to be gathered, which is a significant improvement over what national traditional statistics can offer.
In an era in which data are available more than ever, the digital technology we have today allows for the necessary transformation. Given the variety of information generated and collected about human actions and interactions, particularly in middle-income countries, and the concomitant development of powerful analytical methods and capacities, developing and diffusing methodologies and standards is within reach, provided sufficient focused resources are put to the task. New partnerships are also being set up to harness this data revolution and new sources are being tapped to fill the gap in an unprecedented international effort to develop the new information required.