Data’s big moment? Here’s what you need to know

Opinion piece by Claire Melamed, and Mahamudu Bawumia: “Knowledge is power, and knowledge will empower humanity to tackle the most serious challenges of our time. We are all reliant on accurate knowledge to achieve the collective ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the clock is ticking.

So let’s test your knowledge: A) Are boys or girls under 2 years old more likely to be stunted? B) Are slum-dwellers more likely to be young or old? C) What proportion of disabled people are unemployed? D) What proportion of migrants have birth certificates?

Answer — no one knows.

Data is the story of people’s lives in numbers. Data allows researchers, campaigners, and policymakers to understand how societies work, who gains, and who loses from changes and crises. If you’re not in the data, you’re not in the picture — and too many people are still uncounted. There’s a huge need for concerted efforts to uncover the realities of life for the “left behind” in 2017, and a coalition of partners have been working to disaggregate data on gender, race, age, disabilities, migratory status, and more.

But data has a PR problem. Much as it used to be fine to say “I hate mathematics,” today we all encounter people who think numbers are a distraction from the real business of helping people. But we cannot turn our backs on the greatest renewable resource of our time — the resource that will inform and guide humanity to both define and solve our problems….(More)”.