Achieving sustainable development through data revolution

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Workshop participants practice using software on computers as part of training. UN File Photo/Patricia Esteve

Data resources, or the collection of information through technology, can help bring positive change to communities in developing countries and foster sustainable development.

That was the focus of one of the events on Wednesday at the Financing for Development Conference currently underway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Panellists discussed the importance of harnessing what they called the "data revolution", ahead of September when world leaders will gather in New York to agree on a new development agenda.

Stephanie Coutrix reports.

Having adequate data to know when a child is born, when they need a school place, or when clinics and doctors are required, is critical for the world's ability to deliver on sustainable development.

That's according to the non-profit organization "The ONE Campaign", which leads efforts to end extreme poverty and co-organized the event.

Participants heard about how birth registration, poverty indicators collection, and policy monitoring are areas in which data gathering can be critical.

The Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Angel Gurria, said that data is also essential to hold governments accountable.

"There are two ways of dealing with data, policy-based evidence and evidence-based policy. Of course politicians sometimes prefer policy-based evidence and we prefer evidence-based policy. Why? Because we have to shape the policies around reality, the only way of knowing the reality is after getting the data. If you set a policy direction, you set a road map, you need to constantly be monitoring to see if you are in the right direction, if not make the necessary adjustments."

Meanwhile, the UN recently issued a report showing that developing countries will need to upgrade their statistical systems to carry out regular data collection, which will cost them one billion US dollars a year.

Stephanie Coutrix, United Nations.

Duration: 1’32″

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