When it comes to development, more data is often better—but in the quest for more data, we can often forget about ensuring we have information, which is even more valuable. Information is data that have been recorded, classified, organized, analyzed, interpreted, and translated within a framework so that meaning emerges. At the end of the day, information is what guides action and change.
The need for more data
In 2015, world leaders came together to adopt a new global agenda to guide efforts over the next fifteen years, the Sustainable Development Goals. The High-level Political Forum (HLPF), held this year at the United Nations on July 10-19, is an opportunity for review of the 2030 Agenda, and will include an in-depth analysis of seven of the seventeen goals—including those focused on poverty, health, and gender equality. As part of the HLPF, member states are encouraged to undergo voluntary national reviews of progress across goals to facilitate the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges, and lessons learned; to strengthen policies and institutions; and to mobilize multi-stakeholder support and partnerships for the implementation of the agenda.
A significant challenge that countries continue to face in this process, and one that becomes painfully evident during the HLPF, is the lack of data to establish baselines and track progress. Fortunately, new initiatives aligned with the 2030 Agenda are working to focus on data, such as the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. There are also initiatives focus on collecting more and better data in particular areas, like gender data (e.g., Data2X; UN Women’s Making Every Girl and Woman Count). This work is important and urgently needed.
Image: Adolescent girls pose for pictures at the Boudouri site for displaced persons outside the town of Diffa in southeastern Niger June 18, 2016. REUTERS/Luc Gnago