Use of data is critical to achieving SDGs

feature by Belinda Ayamgha

Accra, Aug. 1, GNA – In a bid to spur
inclusive development that leaves no one behind, the UN has set very high
targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs succeed the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs).

Development organisations and national
governments are bracing up to address the challenges that hindered the broad
achievement of the MDGs.

“The SDG agenda and the SDG goals require that
we think about development in a different way in order to meet the ambitions
set by our political leaders.

“The reality is that the bar has been set
higher with the SDGs,” admits Serge Patrick Kapto, Policy Specialist-Data for
Development at the UNDP, in an interview with the GNA on the side lines of the
just-ended African Open Data Conference (AODC) 2017 held in Accra.

The conference on the theme: “Open Data for
Sustainable Development,” explored the vital role of open data, in Africa.

It also highlighted the use and importance of
open data in accelerating development in various sectors including agriculture,
governance, climate and environment, extractives, health, energy, economic
growth and civil society.

Actors in development at both global and
national levels will have to understand and rethink how development programmes
are implemented, and how processes are structured to deliver progress.

They will have to know who are at risk of
being left behind in development and why, in order to ensure inclusiveness, and
availability of credible, accessible and usable data, is critical to the

There is interconnectedness of all 17 goals of
the SDGs; they cannot each be implemented in isolation and governments will
have to focus on executing all, while tracking the indicators.

To do this, Mr Kapto notes the need to build
the right analytical tools that can bring data from all these areas of

This will allow actors to understand how they
interact with one another so as to get the right tools to understand what the
bottlenecks of development can be and how they can be unplugged.

It will also help to identify the accelerators
and areas where investments can have an accelerated impact on development.

“For that we need to have the right data to
inform the new analytical tools that we need to develop,” Mr Kapto maintains.

Africa, for instance, lacks adequate gender disaggregated
data, but studies have produced statistics to show that investing in women is
‘half the effort needed to lift countries out of poverty’.

This underlines the need for data to know how
development indicators are affecting women, as addressing the specific needs of
women will help accelerate progress on the SDGs.

Another example, according Mr Kapto, is the
correlation between conflict and poverty, climate change and climate
displacement, among others.

“These are examples that show that having the right
data sets and correlating all these different datasets would help us advance
progress… More data in these countries will help make better policies to
mitigate effects”.

While governments play a big role in the
production, release and use of data, citizens can also play critical roles in
data collection and use to address problems in their communities.

This would however require that some
foundations are laid to enable them do this.

Involving people in data collection and use of
data for development.

A major challenge to the use of data by
citizens in Africa is the low level of data literacy and Mr Kapto acknowledges
the need to direct more efforts to data literacy among the public.

“People need to know what data can do for
them, what data to demand of their policy makers and decision makers and also
know what they can do with either the data they collect themselves or data that
is made available to them,” he states.

This requires capacity building of
constituencies as the main objects of data using simple strategies like
advocacy through the media, civil society organisations to ensure that
governments and data producers target their messages towards communities and
citizens, as raw data will not be very useful for them.

Journalists, he notes, will also have a role
to play in getting the data, in the right form, into the hands of the people so
that they can do something with it.

He encouraged the use of simple ways like
having a feedback loop on how data collected from communities have been used or
how the people can use it, encouraging local grassroots innovation by those who
are the experts in the development challenges in their communities and more
importantly creating an environment where they can thrive and innovate.

“There are a lot of efforts happening through
data innovation hubs, ‘Hackathon’ competitions, particularly in the
agricultural, and other sectors, that help create opportunities for young
people in these communities to become more data savvy, learn skills and try to
devise solutions that can address problems in the communities,” he said.

Sensitising all stakeholders to the importance
of data in development and involving them in the proper collection and use of
data to address development challenges is the way to go to achieve the ambitious


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