The important role of data in making informed decisions has been articulated in the Post-2015 development discussions. However, too often data is usually released after a long time at best and is inaccurate (missing marginalized groups in the society) or driven by donor priorities at worst. The unfortunate result of this is that governments end up using inaccurate data to come up with incorrect policies.  While the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) only tracked eight goals and eighteen targets, the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require governments to report national progress against a whooping seventeen goals and one hundred and sixty nine targets.

At an event, organized by Johnson & Johnson and partners dubbed “Data for Decision Making: Post -2015 Health Measurement and Accountability,” panelists were able to unpackage what it will take to realize the data revolution. Below are some of the highlights.

The Politics of Measurement: Who, What and How!

The amount of data being generated daily has grown immensely. According to one study, the world’s data produced in the last two years has increased by 90%! The great task that lies ahead is finding data to track the 17 goals and 169 targets in the SDGs compared with eight goals and 18 targets in the MDGs.  First of all, when it comes to who is being measured, women and girls are least covered especially when data is not disaggregated by age and sex.

“Gender disaggregated data is needed to not only make women and girls visible but also to visualise inequalities and disparities.”

Data4GlobalGoalsBeyond measuring women and girls, the ‘what’ gets measured equally needs careful consideration.  For example, a lot of issues that impact women and girls remain unaccounted for and invisible the policy agendas. As Kaelan Moat from McMaster Health Forum rightfully says, “The Post Development Agenda should not just be about indicators being reported back, that doesn’t always tell us everything that is happening, but the systematic and transparent analysis of the policies governments are putting in place so as to reach their targets.” Yes, more girls are attending school but data should be nuanced so as to be able to speak more about the quality of education they are getting, safety of the learning environment and the transition rates.

Youth are so much more equipped to handle data and engaging with technology. We must not overlook the important role of participatory evidence. The data revolution needs to incorporate the realities, voices and experiences of poverty from women and girls. This includes embracing non-traditional methods such as new forms of media such as Facebook and Twitter in data collection and sharing. A good example is how CDC is using Facebook Sampling (FBS) to conduct a research study for HIV Sexual Behavior. A few of the issues that must be considered in as far as collecting data in the Post 2015 development agenda as highlighted by the panelists include: control and access (“Open Data”) and integrity in not only how the data is  collected but also in the analyzing and sharing the data.

Better Data, Better Decisions

Dr. Christine Sow, Executive Director of the Global Health Coalition was keen to point out that, “Having data does not necessarily mean we have accountability mechanisms.” Partnerships will play an important role in ensuring that data shared indeed leads to action. Just as we
invest in the collection of data and equal and complementary effort needs to be focused on creating a healthy ecosystem for data sharing and accountability channels. The data revolution cannot happen where there is limited ability to take advantage of new technology or make information available to citizens.  For governments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals there must be a push for better data to allow real progress to be tracked and to allow for leaders to be held accountable.

Follow @GirlsGlobe @felogene on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Periscope, @JNJGlobalHealth,@FHI360, @WomenDeliver and #GlobalGoalsLive for coverage related to the United Nations General Assembly Week – and the health and rights of women and girls in particular.

Featured Photo Credit: A trainee nurse who attends the nursing college that receives technical support from MCHIP poses for photographs in  Dehradun, India Tuesday, May 27, 2014. (Kate Holt/ MCHIP)

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