Data Revolution: Development’s Next Frontier

Claire Melamed, from the Overseas Development Institute, writes on the World Politics Review about the data revolution and its potential impact on development. You can read extracts below:

“The general concern for and complaints about data quality have crystallized in a commitment to action in recent months, with the call from the U.N.’s High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda for a “data revolution” and a global partnership on data to provide resources for improvements in data quality and quantity worldwide. This call has grabbed the imagination of official agencies, NGOs and governments worldwide, and there is real potential—at last—for resources and political will to improve what some commentators call the “statistical tragedy” of poor data in poor countries.


Raising the money would be just the start. Spending it would also produce huge challenges. First among these would be prioritization—what is the data that’s really important to collect? There’s a lot of agreement on basic demographic data that countries should have—information about numbers of people, births and deaths, incomes and assets, health and education levels and so on. But beyond that, there’s an almost infinite range of data that would be very useful—but each extra piece would add to the costs of collection. If, as we should probably assume will happen, a new set of global goals on sustainable development are agreed to in 2015, there will be new requirements for data to measure progress on them”.

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