• The UN Secretary General's Independent Expert Advisory Group
  • on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development
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What is the ‘data revolution’?


The need for a ‘data revolution’ was first expressed by the High Level Panel, appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to advise on the global development agenda after the 2015 millennium development goals (MDGs).

The High Level Panel report was quite brief, leaving quite a lot of room for interpretation:

“Better data and statistics will help governments track progress and make sure their decisions are evidence-based; they can also strengthen accountability. This is not just about governments. International agencies, CSOs and the private sector should be involved. A true data revolution would draw on existing and new sources of data to fully integrate statistics into decision making, promote open access to, and use of, data and ensure increased support for statistical systems. ” (HLP Report, P23) 

Most people are in broad agreement that the ‘data revolution’ refers to the transformative actions needed to respond to the demands of a complex development agenda, improvements in how data is produced and used; closing data gaps to prevent discrimination; building capacity and data literacy in “small data” and big data analytics; modernizing systems of data collection; liberating data to promote transparency and accountability; and developing new targets and indicators.

There are different actors in this field, focusing on the different elements above. At the heart of this agenda is an acknowledgement that timely, usable data is critical to informed decision-making, monitoring of progress , and evaluation of outcomes—especially in the the context of the post-2015 development agenda.