Realising the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development: Towards Capacity Development 4.0

Report by Niels Keijzer and Stephan Klingebiel for Paris21: “An ever-deepening data revolution is shaping everyday lives in many parts of the world. As just one of many mindboggling statistics on Big Data, it has been estimated that by the year 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet. The benefits of the data revolution extend to different groups of people, social movements, institutions and businesses. Yet many people and countries do not have access to these positive benefits and in richer countries potentially positive changes raise suspicion amongst citizens as well as concerns related to privacy and confidentiality. The availability of potential advantages is, to a large extent, guided by levels of development and income. Despite the rapid spread of mobile phone technology that allows regions otherwise disconnected from the grid to ‘leapfrog’ in terms of using and producing data and statistics, poor people are still less likely to benefit from the dramatic changes in the field of data.

Against the background of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the main challenge for statistics is to manage the data revolution in support of sustainable development. The main priorities are the broadening and deepening of production, dissemination and use of data and statistics, and achieving them requires identifying those population groups which are most vulnerable and making governments more accountable to their citizens. In parallel, the risks accompanying the data revolution need to be mitigated and reduced, including the use of data for purposes of repression or otherwise infringing on the privacy of citizens. In addition to representing a universal agenda that breaks away from the dichotomy of developed and developing countries, the new agenda calls for tailor-made approaches in each country or region concerned, supported by global actions. The 2030 Agenda further states the international community’s realisation of the need to move away from ‘business as usual’ in international support for data and statistics.

The most important driving forces shaping the data revolution are domestic (legal) frameworks and public policies across the globe. This applies not only to wealthier countries but also developing countries2 , and external support cannot compensate for absent domestic leadership and investment. Technical, legal and political factors all affect whether countries are willing and able to succeed in benefiting from the data revolution. However, in both low income countries and lower-middle income countries, and to some extent in upper-middle income countries, we can observe two constraining factors in this regard, capacities and funding. These factors are, to some degree, interrelated: if funding is not sufficiently available it might be difficult to increase the capacities required, and if capacities are insufficient funding issues might be more challenging….(More)”