Ready for data
by Alyson Hayes
There are many familiar technology-based trends in development, some formal and some informal
On August 29, 2014, the United Nations issued a press release informing the appointment of the Independent Expert Advisory Group on the data revolution for sustainable development. According to the press release, these advisory group members will guide the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, for closing data gaps and strengthening national statistical capacities.
As we near the end of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) era, we see that identifying progress and assessing further needs rely on information. It is this data that will allow for adequate tracking, monitoring, and implementation of the goals for development. Data will provide evidence-based outlook for planning, revision, and action. Information is intrinsically linked to empowerment. Data is the foundation for informed decision making at all levels – grassroots to policy level.
It is apparent in the 15 years of MDGs that monitoring and tracking achievement has been burdened by a lack of information and knowledge. This lack of information and knowledge is a result of insufficient indicators, inadequate methodologies, and limited data sharing and storing strategies.
The data revolution is, in fact, a true revolution. It is a transformative people-driven upheaval of traditional practices for rapid change. It is the critical need for creating momentum for the next development era movement.
There are many familiar technology-based trends in development, some formal and some informal, that source and share data, information and communication technology for development, mobile technology for development, innovative uses of geographic information system (GIS), social media campaigns and hacktivism, and more. The challenge lies in the effective collection, use, dissemination, and validation of data for real progress and real support for sustainable development initiatives.
The MDGs were directed towards the global community to galvanise and motivate positive change in various social sectors including health, education, gender equity, and food security. It was expected that developing countries would, and do, struggle in these areas. However, the MDGs also shed light on an unexpected disparity between developed and developing countries. Data and information is insufficient for adequate use for monitoring, implementation, and policy development or reform.
In response, the United Nations is developing a strategy to combat this data scarcity and gaps in data and information. They are promoting implementation and improvement of national-level statistical systems by increasing capacity, funding, and multilateral buy-in. Notably, the UN has also shared the importance of civil society engagement in this revolution for ensuring inclusive and rights-based approaches.
On World Development Information Day, we reflected on the achievements and progress that this developing country has made to improve information and communication for development and the anticipated engagement in the data revolution. As a nation, Bangladesh is proactive in this revolution. With the establishment of the access to information program, the prime minister’s office, and the promotion of the Digital Bangladesh campaign, Bangladesh has committed to improved use of technology and information for national development.
Moreover, the Centre for Policy Dialogue has identified core strategies for participation in the data revolution and mainstreaming national information and knowledge management through data generation. Basic statistical concepts of availability, reliability, and accessibility are key pillars to the data revolution for Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics has been tasked with the challenge for identifying the type of data to be generated for the post-2015 development goals.
It is this key assignment that will shape the ability for goal monitoring and national progress. But, it should not be the sole responsibility of this public agency. Participation in the data revolution and identifying indicators for assessing development goal progress must be a collaborative initiative, with participation from all sectors.
Bangladesh, as a nation, is ready to move into the post-2015 era and has made the commitment to increase the information and knowledge capacities for improved development efforts. Through guided and deliberate data management, evidence-based actions can be applied for the improvement of the population and result in sustainable social development.
Alyson Hayes is Associate Coordinator, Eminence Associates for Social Development, and Conference Organiser, Bangladesh Summit on Sustainable Development.