UN Advisory Group Releases Report on Data Revolution for Sustainable Development


The UN Secretary General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group has presented its report to the Secretary General on Data Revolution for Sustainable Development titled “A World That Counts: Mobilizing the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development”.

 The Advisory Group comprises of 20 international experts convened by the Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon to proffer ideas on how to improve data for achieving and monitoring sustainable development. The Group brought to light two major challenges for the current global data situation which were the challenge of invisibility – gaps in what we know from data, and when we find out; and the challenge of inequality – gaps between those who are with and without information and what they need to know to make their own decisions.download

Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General
Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General

The report majorly centers on Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, emphasising that data is crucial to decision making in every sphere of life. The report gives credit to the effort that has been put into monitoring Millennium Development Goals towards increased investment and improving data for monitoring and accountability. It however claims that there are still huge data and knowledge gaps citing the Ebola outbreak situation as an example where it is still hard to ascertain how many people have died and where.

Data revolution in the Independent Expert Advisory Group (IEAG) report is described as “an explosion in the volume of data, the speed with which data are produced, the number, coming from new technologies such as mobile phones and the ‘internet of things’, and from of producers of data, the dissemination of data, and the range of things on which there is data other sources, such as qualitative data, citizen-generated data and perceptions data” and “a growing demand for data from all parts of society”.

The IEAG research proves that sufficient data is necessary for policy making and progress comparison. Without data, many groups of people and important issues are imperceptible. The report also explained the role that data revolution plays in health, as new data sources might be capable of tracking and predicting malaria epidemics and diseases and can be used to improve the quality of health care as well as reduce mortality rates. According to the IEAG, the kind of data that is needed for sustainable development is the kind that everyone can easily have access to, the kind that is readily available at the time of decision making and data that is capable of bringing about innovations to address the challenges of the future.Screen-Shot-2014-11-05-at-12.27.33-AM

The Independent Expert Advisory Group states the groups of sectors involved in Data revolution. These groups include: government, international and regional institutions; International and regional organisations; statistical system; all public, private and civil society data producers; governments, civil society academia and philanthropic society; the private sector; civil society organization and individuals, the media, academics and scientists.Screen-Shot-2014-11-05-at-12.27.22-AM

The IEAG in its reports suggest that to mobilize the data revolution for sustainable development, a comprehensive programme of action is needed in four critical areas, which are: Principles and standard; Technology, innovation and analysis; Capacity and resources; and Leadership and governance.

The report concludes with specific recommendations on how to solve the challenges that the current global data situation is faced with. Major recommendations from the report are:

  •  Fostering and promotion of innovation to fill data gaps.
  • Mobilizing resources to overcome inequalities between developed and developing countries and between data-poor and data-rich people.
  • Leadership and coordination to enable the data revolution to play its full role in the realization of sustainable development.

The Group called for a UN-led effort to mobilize the data revolution for sustainable development.