Statistics and data activities
- SDG capacity gap assessments and monitoring and implementation plans
An important part of the project is to support countries, where necessary, in undertaking an assessment of which indicators are currently available (both in terms of data and metadata) and where they are not, of the level of difficulty of compiling these indicators. This assessment is meant as a supporting starting point for developing national monitoring and implementation strategies or plans. Assessments also help countries as well as partners, including UNSD, better understand what support should be provided in order to fill the data gaps.
- Metadata workshops
Metadata are important to allow all users to understand the data and the methodology behind, to facilitate data exchange and to help explain possible differences between nationally and globally reported indicators. Not all national agencies have a system in place to include metadata in their data compilation.
UNSD will work with pilot countries to improve metadata descriptions. One activity is to conduct workshops at national level to allow for the different ministries and agencies involved in SDG reporting to participate in the training. The workshops will cover the core concepts of metadata in a SDG context and the importance of specifying information correctly. A national reporting template will also be introduced linked to the globally agreed reporting template, but adjustable to national specifics. Please click here for more details on National Metadata workshops
An important reference for national metadata compilation is the newly developed E-handbook on SDG Indicators, which gives an overview of key aspects—such as definitions, concepts, sources and methods of calculation—of SDG indicators in the global monitoring framework. It addresses the growing need for information targeted towards national statisticians to compile SDG indicators using data produced by the national statistical systems. See here: https://unstats.un.org/wiki/display/SDGeHandbook/Home
Users need to be aware of what is there to access the data and metadata on the national platforms. The project therefore supports pilot countries in developing national user engagement strategies. UNSD will also facilitate exchange of approaches and good examples through the webpage and possibly through national or regional workshops. Further, template materials such as brochures or leaflets, for countries to use as a starting point, might also be developed.
SDG national reporting also plays an important role in the global context, especially for the Voluntary National Reviews (VNR). Supporting NSS in delivering information and data for these reviews in important. Further, UNSD liaises with other UN agencies and partners in the country and with agencies and the other Divisions of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) at headquarters to facilitate direct communication with policy makers in countries.
UNSD is collaborating with National Statistics Offices in organizing national user engagement workshops which bring together representatives from the national statistical system to develop draft user engagement strategies. This is combined with hands on learning of methods and tools for how to engage with various user groups, also taking the input of these groups into account in the development of the strategy. Please click here for more details on National User Engagement workshops
- Coordination across the National Statistical System (NSS)
The SDG reporting demands increased cooperation across national agencies charged with data production and dissemination, both in terms of working together and agreeing on responsibilities, and in exchanging data. This is first and foremost a task of the national agencies, but UNSD supports the work through inclusive workshops and meetings. UNSD also strongly encourages pilot countries to sign data exchange agreements. This is important to ensure that all national data and metadata can be found in the national data and metadata platforms. In countries where MoUs are signed, such agreements are one of the deliverables.
One important element of agreeing on data exchange is agreeing on the format of exchange. Exchanging data electronically can be very efficient if there are automated systems in place which are interoperable. UNSD will seek to provide input to and support this, as specified under point 3 under Data platforms and IT solutions.
- Other data related activities
Countries are facing different challenges in populating the national data and metadata platforms. In some cases, there might improve their capacity to make use of administrative data while other countries rather need inputs on how to provide data disaggregated by new dimensions. UNSD has already received a few specific requests from countries and will follow up on these as far as resources allow. These activities have not been specified in the project plans but can help countries in reporting data and metadata and facilitate better utilization of data. and improve users' engagement.
Typically, such activities could include workshops or seminars focusing on data disaggregation, use of administrative records or new data sources for the compilation of statistics, open data, data interoperability, and integration of statistical and geospatial information for the SDGs. UNSD will also seek partnerships with other agencies where possible and relevant.
Data platforms and IT solutions
- National SDG data and metadata platforms
Since the decision was made to discontinue support for Devinfo, the most common reporting platform for the MDGs, UNSD and partners have worked to find alternative solutions. UNSD has now developed a strategy for the implementation of national platforms. The recommended approach is to determine the technical solutions separately for the front-end and the back-end of the platform
- Front-end is what the user sees and what to a large extent defines the user experience. The usability of national platforms, as well as user engagement, would greatly benefit from a customized SDG interface rather than a generic data warehouse. A modern front end is typically a Web application driven by an Application Programming Interface (API).
- Back end is a system that supplies the API and data, and includes data entry, processing and validation modules over, typically, a relational database (or another type of storage).
The rational is that a properly designed front-end system is low maintenance and easy to set up or replace, while back-end systems are by their nature high maintenance and difficult to replace. For the platforms to be sustainable over time, good solutions for both elements are needed. In the short-run, however, one can first introduce a front-end, which puts in place an SDG platform that can be presented to the users. These can be easily improved based on users’ feedback and will continue to function even as the back-end system is being replaced. Establishing the front-end will therefore be the first priority of the project. In the initial stages, the back-end can be as simple as using excel sheets, the old Devinfo database or similar. The project will provide technical assistance to the countries with installing a platform-independent SDMX API, which will then be transferred to the new back-end system when a permanent solution is identified, while the front-end system will be unaffected.
There are adaptable, off-the-shelf solutions available, or under development, for both front-end and back-end. OECD and Unicef are currently piloting the replacement of DevInfo with the dot.Stat software suite in Cambodia; SDMX data exchange has been established as part of the pilot using the dot.Stat system. The African Development Bank (AfDB) has made its Open Data Platform available to all African countries, and plans are in place to pilot SDMX exchange in early 2019. The dot.Stat and Open Data Platform are data warehouses that can be used to disseminate the entire range of a country’s statical data and serve as the back-end system for an SDG front-end. The US/UK platform, SDG Goal Tracker and ArcGIS Online are possible SDG-customized front-end solutions. Some countries have chosen to develop or use existing home-grown platforms. UNSD will work with countries and partners to find suitable solutions in every case.
- SDMX data and metadata exchange
The SDMX-SDGs Working Group was established by the IAEG-SDGs, tasked with the development of standards for the exchange of SDG indicators and metadata. Following the release of the first draft SDG Data Structure Definition (DSD), a prototype data exchange Web site, SDG Data Labs, was developed by UNSD and used to pilot the SDG Data Exchange. As part of the pilot, data exchange was established with 5 custodian agencies and 5 countries, including two project countries (Cambodia and Tanzania) and three countries outside the project (Colombia, Brazil, and the Russian Federation). SDG indicators from these countries and custodian agencies were delivered to the SDG Data Labs, which facilitates comparisons between the global and national datasets. The pilot successfully completed in September 2018.
Following the completion of the pilot, the SDMX-SDGs Working Group is now preparing the first version of the official SDG DSD, pending IAEG-SDGs recommendations on disaggregation of SDG indicators. Release of the official SDG DSD is scheduled for March 2019. The draft Metadata Structure Definition (MSD) for SDG indicators is scheduled for release at the same time. SDMX-based data and metadata exchange will eventually be established with all project countries.
UNSD has been providing capacity building to countries on data and metadata exchange, both as part of the UNSD-DFID project as well as the Development Account 10th Tranche (DA-10) project. The first of a series of workshops on Data and Metadata Sharing and Exchange was organized jointly with UNECA and UNEP in September 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, for English-speaking countries of the African region . Another such workshop was organized jointly with UN Women and took place in December 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand, for countries of the Asian region.
- National data exchange and open data
The value and impact of national SDG data and metadata is greatly increased by the incorporation of open data principles and data interoperability standards. These principles and standards allow users to seamlessly access, integrate, analyze and use SDG data for decision making. An element of open data is also linked to the seamless exchange of data and metadata between NSS agencies. Currently the exchange between agencies is often manual and time consuming. Automated exchange using open data standards could help improving data flow and lead to more updated information in the national platforms.
UNSD is working closely with various partners to incorporate open data principles and interoperability standards into the capacity-building activities organized in the context the UNSD-DFID project on SDG reporting. This includes identifying synergies with related initiatives in order to introduce open data and data interoperability principles, standards and best practices into the training workshops and technical assistance missions held at national level. A first training workshop is planned to take place in Bangladesh in 2019. The workshop will be conducted together with Open Data Watch.
- Global SDG Indicators database
The global SDG indicators database presenting data and metadata from the custodian agencies can be found here: https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/indicators/database/. Following release of the official SDG DSD, data and metadata exchange will be established with countries, national data will be made available at the platform, and comparisons will be facilitated between the global and national datasets. As specified above, pilot SDG data exchange has been completed, which helped identify further adjustments needed.
- Project web page
As was suggested by the advisory group in March, a website for the project has now been set up. It is currently still in its infant stages, so more information will be added in the period to come. Overall, it is the plan to establish pages with general project information, but also create pages for each of the pilot countries where key information about common activities and general achievements of the country’s work on SDG monitoring is displayed. Please visit the webpage to see more: https://unstats.un.org/capacity-building/UNSD-DFID .