Why sustainable development needs better data
- Tuesday, 23 February 2016
- By Shamshad Akhtar
Sustainable development is in the spotlight in 2016, which marks the start of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an initiative that is both aspirational and transformative.
The first priority for all national governments in planning for the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and their 169 associated targets, is to address the strengths and weaknesses of data sources, to swiftly determine how best to address the gaps, as well as the complexities of measurement. Rapid development of the capacities of national statistical institutions will be critical because, 15 years from now, by the end of the 2030 Agenda, there will be nearly half a billion more people living in the Asia-Pacific region, all of whom should have reliable access to energy, food, water, education and employment.
Data are the lifeblood of decision-making. Without them, designing, monitoring and evaluating policies for sustainable development is almost impossible. The breadth and depth of the new development agenda entails complex decisions about the future of our planet, our communities and our economies. Without appropriate data and information, there is a risk that our sustainable development strategies will be only partially complete, with their contours dictated by what is and is not available. This will not only slow down the process of implementing the SDGs, but also limit their transformational potential.
Generally, official statistics offer insights about Asia-Pacific development, but these are inadequate for the far-reaching and integrated dimensions of the sustainable development agenda. The World Bank’s Statistical Capacity Indicator for the Asia-Pacific region offers good foundations on which to build. On a scale from zero (representing no capacity) to 100 (full capacity), a rating of 79 is assigned for the timeliness of statistics, 70 for the adequacy of source data and 62 for methodologies used. There are, however, individual country scores as low as 20.