Development data El Tiempo/ZumaPress

The Data Revolution for Sustainable Development

There is growing recognition that the success of the Sustainable Development Goals, which will be adopted at a special UN summit this month, will depend on the ability of governments, businesses, and civil society to track progress and make informed decisions. The key is to use data more effectively.

NEW YORK – There is growing recognition that the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be adopted on September 25 at a special United Nations summit, will depend on the ability of governments, businesses, and civil society to harness data for decision-making. The key, as I have highlighted before, is to invest in building innovative data systems that draw on new sources of real-time data for sustainable development.

We live in a data-driven world. Advertisers, insurance companies, national security agencies, and political advisers have already learned to tap into big data, sometimes to our chagrin; so, too, have countless scientists and researchers, thereby accelerating progress on new discoveries. But the global development community has been slower to benefit – not least because too much development data are still being collected using cumbersome approaches that lag behind today’s technological capabilities.

One way to improve data collection and use for sustainable development is to create an active link between the provision of services and the collection and processing of data for decision-making. Take health-care services. Every day, in remote villages of developing countries, community health workers help patients fight diseases (such as malaria), get to clinics for checkups, receive vital immunizations, obtain diagnoses (through telemedicine), and access emergency aid for their infants and young children (such as for chronic under-nutrition). But the information from such visits is usually not collected, and even if it is put on paper, it is never used again.

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