Since the launch of the 2030 Agenda, countries across all regions started planning for reporting data and statistics on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governments are at different stages of this process: While some are developing their overall SDG monitoring plans and evaluating data availability, others are building national data platforms or leveraging regional data platforms. Dozens of countries have started to publish and disseminate data on the SDGs in this way － and all stakeholder communities stand to benefit from learning more about their experiences and new efforts to implement SDG reporting.
This October at the UN World Data Forum in Dubai, the UN Statistics Division (UNSD), UNICEF, and the SDG National Reporting Initiative at the Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE) are organizing a joint session on National Data Platforms for SDG Reporting: Principles, approaches, and experiences. The session will feature governments, solution providers, and international agencies that are working to advance SDG reporting in different regions around the world. The goal of this implementation-driven discussion is to better understand the range of options available for countries interested in SDG reporting; share experiences and learned lessons; and foster the development of common principles to guide future work.
Understanding current approaches and experiences
Countries have taken a range of different approaches to SDG reporting, using both open-source and proprietary tools, and leveraging both regional and national reporting platforms. For example, the United States and United Kingdom are working together to build national reporting platforms for the SDGs, available at https://sdg.data.gov/ and https://sustainabledevelopment-uk.github.io, respectively. These open-source platforms can be shared and reused at no cost, and are fully customizable. Several countries including Armenia, Rwanda, and Ghana are exploring this approach for their own SDG reporting.
Other countries are leveraging a combination of open-source and proprietary tools, sometimes collaborating with solution providers and regional organizations. Solution providers like Esri can help countries leverage web-based geographic information systems technology to integrate and disseminate statistical and geospatial information for SDG monitoring. For example, as part of the Federated Information System for the SDGs initiative, Ireland launched a data platform that allows the publication of 'story maps', which combine text, graphs, and maps to highlight Ireland's progress towards achieving the SDGs. Similarly, Data Act Lab is helping countries develop and implement data visualization tools and web platforms, including Colombia's SDG portal and the Goal Tracker Platform, which will be launched in South Africa and Tanzania in early 2019.
Several regional organizations are also developing tools and platforms that allow countries to provide and display data and statistics on the SDGs. As part of its Africa Information Highway, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has built a regional platform for countries to establish their own portals for SDG reporting. The main platform for reporting SDGs in Africa, available at http://sdg.opendataforafrica.org, links to separate ‘National SDGs Data Hub' portals for 54 African countries. The Statistical Information System Collaboration Community (SIS-CC) is another example of a regional organization developing tools for SDG reporting. The SIS-CC, which was founded by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to better enable agencies to share statistical management and dissemination tools, has grown to include 15 active members. With an ever-increasing set of tools and rich features set, the community provides a strong mechanism for managing the shared burdens of the specialized tools that agencies require to handle their statistical reporting needs.
Collaborating and designing principles to guide future work
Through the SDGs, UN member states have agreed to address poverty, hunger, climate change, gender equity, and other global issues, and to make major progress by 2030. This conversation continues today with international conferences, expert group meetings, collaboratives, and workshops that help set the agenda, create stronger networks and develop common principles and guidelines. It is through this coordination that best practices can be shared and scaled to help countries report on and achieve the SDGs.
One such initiative that has valuable lessons to be shared is a pilot project being led by the OECD, UNICEF, PARIS21, and UNSD to explore the challenges involved in data migration and standardization. Working with national partners in countries including Cambodia and Tanzania, the project has mixed analysis of existing data, structural remodelling following Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange (SDMX) patterns, and import into SDMX-compliant tools such as Eurostat-Reference Infrastructure web services and the SIS-CC community's .Stat. The ongoing project has shown how the challenges go beyond the merely technological, and require an information management-based approach as much as an information technology-based approach.
In tandem with this work, the UNSD Conference on National Reporting and Dissemination Platforms brought stakeholders together in January 2018 to produce principles of SDG indicator reporting and dissemination platforms and guidelines for their application. These principles outline best practices and basic steps that countries can take to develop national data platforms and increase interoperability between SDG reporting systems.
Improvements to data interoperability are also being facilitated by the Collaborative of SDG Data Interoperability, which was launched after the first UN World Data Forum in January 2017. Co-convened by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) and UNSD, this collaborative is developing a Data Interoperability Guide to support the SDGs. The first version of this new resource will be launched at the UN World Data Forum in Dubai this October.
The implementation of SDG reporting is a critical step on the path towards achieving the 2030 Agenda, and it will provide data for a more complete view of global development than has ever before been possible. This progress depends on looking back and learning from previous experiences as well as looking forward and working together to utilize new data and technical capabilities. The UN World Data Forum provides a timely opportunity to bring together stakeholders from around the world to continue working towards this common goal.
Katarina Rebello is Director of Programs at CODE, where she leads the SDG National Reporting Initiative. This Initiative focuses on facilitating greater information-sharing for reporting on the UN Sustainable Development Goals between international, regional, and local communities.
Yves Jaques is an ICT specialist, and the Helix project manager at UNICEF. Helix is a BMGF-funded initiative to enhance the agency's management and dissemination of its impact and outcome indicators.