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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Data for Development - A Needs Assessment for SDG Monitoring and Statistical Capacity Development

Publication Year: 2015 Publisher: Sustainable Development Solutions Network


Related Goals


Following the progress made under the Millennium Development Goals, which guided global development efforts in the years 2000 to 2015, the world’s governments are currently negotiating a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the period 2016 to 2030. The SDGs will continue the fight against extreme poverty but will add the challenges of ensuring more equitable development and environmental sustainability.

Crucial to their success will be strong government systems and in particular strong statistical systems that can measure and incentivize progress across the goals. This study, prepared by a broad coalition of data for development experts, estimates that a total of US$1 billion per annum will be required to enable 77 of the world’s lower-income countries to catch-up and put in place statistical systems capable of supporting and measuring the SDGs. Donors must maintain current contributions to statistics, of approximately US$300 million per annum, and go further, leveraging US$100-200 million more in Official Development Assistance (ODA) to support country efforts. For their part, recipient countries must commit to fill the gap, mobilizing domestic resources behind clear national strategies for the development of statistics (NSDSs).

Both donors and recipient countries must look to join the data revolution. The unprecedented rate of innovation in data collection techniques and technologies and the capacity to distribute data widely and freely has expanded the horizon of possibility. The adoption of the SDGs presents a strategic opportunity to build on the momentum of the data revolution and demonstrate the centrality of data for development. Particularly crucial is the Financing for Development Conference (FFD) being hosted by the Government of Ethiopia in July 2015. The FFD Conference will be the key forum at which to recognize the investment needed to rise to the challenge of the SDGs. With clear commitments from member states, international financial institutions, and the private sector, the FFD Conference could lay the ground for a meaningful Partnership for Development Data, backed up by adequate resources.
Our objective is to catalyze and inform the discussion on data at the FFD Conference, and the ensuing dialogue on the implementation of the SDGs, by demonstrating the scale of need, including total and additional resources required, as well as the key areas for investment. We also attempt to identify some of the ways in which data production, analysis, and communication can be modernized, taking into account emergent technologies and their cost-saving potential.

The estimates provided in this study are very conservative. We focus our analysis on 77 countries that currently qualify for concessional borrowing through the International Development Association (IDA) and are therefore likely to be in need of external assistance, and we cost a selection of core statistical products that will be essential for monitoring the social, economic and environmental dimensions of the SDGs. These products include surveys, census, civil registration and vital statistics systems, education management information systems, and select economic and environmental statistics, inclusive of geospatial data. We also allow an overhead for human resource investments and policy and legislative reforms based on current and planned expenditures.

We sense-check these figures through a separate analysis of the budgets included in recent National Strategies for the Development of Statistics (NSDSs). These strategies lay out countries’ aspirational plans to boost the capacity of their statistical systems. The accompanying budgets demonstrate that countries aspire to spend as much as $1.1 billion annually to increase the capacity of their statistical systems, with a median share of 52 percent of the funding coming from external resources. Although these plans predate the proposed SDGs, they demonstrate that countries are ready and willing to improve their national statistical systems, in line with the requirements of the SDGs