29 September 2020
Partnership Reports on Better Data to Improve Lives, Reach SDGs
story highlights

Launched on the fifth anniversary of the SDGs' adoption, the report shares how data are being used for better decisions and to improve lives.

The report highlights five key lessons: good data takes time; progress depends on people; politics drives technical change; values count; and systems not silos.

The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data launched a report on the use of data to improve lives and support SDG achievement. Examples from around the world highlight the use of data to make better decisions, such as to find the best locations to resettled endangered rhinos in Kenya.

The report titled, ‘A Global Movement for Better Data and Better Lives: Five years of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, 2015-2020,’ reflects on the Partnership’s five years of learning and shares experience on how to build a better data system. The authors highlight five key lessons:

  • “Good data takes time”: time is needed to build relationships, change institutions, and learn; commitments must be long-term, and planning and budgeting need to be based on a long-term perspective embedded within a supportive institutional framework;
  • “Progress depends on people”: understanding and trust are key to good partnerships; building common understanding and agreeing on common goals can help mediate between different organizations;
  • “Politics drives technical change” and political support is key to achieve sustainable change at scale; South-South cooperation should be used as a lever for change;
  • “Values count”: equity and inclusivity are critical to data progress; data should be inclusive in form and function, and new capacities and skills are needed to respond to unforeseen phenomena and complex data issues; and
  • “Systems not silos”: openness and interoperability strengthen data systems and increase impact; data has the most value when it can be combined and used in different systems; open data, platforms, and tools make systems fair and flexible, facilitating innovation and spreading knowledge.

The report shares how partnerships across government, the private sector, civil society, and academia are using data for better decisions, based on the principles of local ownership and sustainability. Examples include:

  • In Kenya, wildlife conservation groups are leveraging improved data and technology to find the best locations for resettling endangered rhinos;
  • In Colombia and Paraguay, government partners have developed new methods of SDG monitoring to allow countries around the world to better measure progress on SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities);
  • In Nigeria, the government created a COVID-19 dashboard that combines data from government agencies to track COVID-19 cases and health center availability; 
  • In Sierra Leone, the government is using data and technology to better protect its mangrove forests; and
  • In Senegal, farmers can get prices for their crops more quickly at harvest time.

Similarly, the report showcases how better data are improving the lives of the poorest people in the world. The statistics office in Colombia is accounting for gender, disability, ethnicity, and life cycle to create a fuller understanding of people’s needs in data. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center published the first global estimate of the number of internally displaced women and children. In Zanzibar, the government is using data to understand gendered dimensions of crime and migration.

Among the report’s highlights of how the Partnership has contributed to systemic changes, responsible data sharing and innovation, in 2018, it produced a guide on data interoperability that draws on learning from over 100 partners and is informing practice in nine countries. To increase funding for data, the Partnership collaborated with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Bank, and several governments to launch the 50×2030 initiative in 2018, which aims to bridge the global agricultural data gap by transforming country data systems across 50 countries by 2030.  

Looking forward, the report notes that the Partnership aims to build regional and national partnerships to strengthen systems, build capacity, and learn what works to ensure that better data can be used to improve decisions and scale up successful experiments.

The Global Partnership, a network of 260 partners from 59 countries across 111 cities, launched the report at a global town hall event on 25 September 2020 to mark its fifth anniversary. Also on 25 September, Global Goals Day, the Partnership marked the fifth anniversary of the SDGs’ adoption in 2015 with a focus on “factivism,” drawing attention to the action needed by everyone to deliver the Goals by 2030. [Publication: A Global Movement for Better Data and Better Lives] [GPSDD website]

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