United Nations Statistical Commission

50th Session (2019)   50 reasons why better data make better lives   Inequality

Better data, more inclusive development

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are at the core of the most ambitious agenda in humanity's history to root out poverty and hunger, fight climate change and create a more equitable and just world for all in only 15 short years. The unprecedented scale of this global agenda has triggered an equally unprecedented demand for data -in terms of topics, level of detail, and quality.

Measuring humanity's progress towards achieving the 17 Goals and 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a titanic task that includes compiling and analyzing data on 232 indicators for every country in the world. Such a feat can only be achieved with a substantial increase in funding and capacity-building for national statistical institutions.

However, investing in statistical capacity is rarely high on the priority list, especially in least developed countries or countries in situation of conflict. Consequently, people in those countries face a higher risk of falling behind, as they often remain invisible to official statistics and policy analyses.

Tracking SDGs progress also requires innovation, such as the use of geospatial and big data analysis tools and tapping new data sources like satellite imagery and mobile data. These new sources, coupled with strengthened partnerships for better data, can complement the traditional data sources - such as that gathered in population censuses, household surveys and administrative registers - and ensure that quality data and statistics are at the center of development policies.

While certainly a tremendous challenge, the gigantic surge in demand for data, started by the SDGs has also helped us realize the gaps in our understanding of the world. The 2030 Agenda motivates countries around the world to begin or to improve monitoring everything from air and water quality to the prevalence of discrimination, to electricity access.

To deliver on the 2030 Agenda's central promise of leaving no one behind, we must first ensure everyone is counted and accounted for. That is why more and better data is fundamental for making our world a better place by 2030.

Better data makes our lives better in countless ways. As the UN Statistical Commission prepares to hold its 50th session this March, we highlight the stories that show how data can improve, and sometimes even save the lives of people. Discover the power of data!

For more information on the UN Statistical Commission, visit: https://unstats.un.org/unsd/statcom/50th-session