Finding real-time SDG data in our time

Written by TReNDS Staff with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data

Source   : NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Kathryn Mersmann

Source: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Kathryn Mersmann

Is real-time data for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) possible in our time? This is the question TReNDS and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data hope to tackle in a new project, and we want you to join us.

The SDGs’ 232 indicators are quantitative measures of progress for people, the planet, and our collective prosperity. Yet the data available for these indicators are insufficient – not timely enough, not accurate enough, not inclusive enough. Take, for example, the census; in many places, it is conducted no more often than every 10 years and in others, it has not been conducted since before the turn of the 21st century.

Which of the SDGs’ indicators could – with the right marshaling of resources – be measured almost everywhere around the globe, at all times, with relative accuracy? 

Night lights illuminate the region around the River Nile.    Source   : NASA Earth Observatory

Night lights illuminate the region around the River Nile. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

In this new project, we aim to apply the best knowledge, data sources, and technological solutions to identify these indicators ­– helping us better understand SDG progress today, not just at the finish line. With this understanding, governments, businesses, multilateral organizations, and civil society will be better situated to actually achieve the SDGs in the next decade.

Through this project, governments and partners will determine a set of indicators for which high-frequency data are available – such as night lights as an indicator of population. These would complement the official data used for the SDGs, filling in gaps caused by infrequent surveys, left-behind populations, et al. These indicators would be used to inform policy and budgeting decisions by policymakers, to guide direct investments by companies, and to increase accountability through parliamentarians and civil society – particularly valuable for governments needing to address their most pressing sustainable development issues today.

We can’t do this alone; we’ll be leveraging existing methods and robust data work. But we’re also seeking academic, technical, and corporate partners; new technology solutions; and governments ready to scale the production and use of good data for SDG progress.

Ready to join us? Learn more here, and contact TReNDS Director Jessica Espey at Jessica.espey@unsdsn.org or the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data at info@data4sdgs.org.