Enhancing statistics for the SDGs: A new project to increase use and impact of official statistics

AidData is polling producers of national statistics as part of a new collaboration with Open Data Watch and PARIS21.

April 12, 2018
Mac McDermott, Sarina Patterson
Opening of the UN Statistical Commission’s 48th Session in March, 2017. Photo by UN Photo/Manuel Elias, fair use.

Opening of the UN Statistical Commission’s 48th Session in March, 2017. Photo by UN Photo/Manuel Elias, fair use.

Since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals near the end of 2015, development actors have placed greater emphasis on national statistical offices (NSOs) to improve the quality and quantity of official statistics produced. Yet, despite the increased demand for development data, broken links remain in the data value chain between supply, use, and impact.

Identifying the barriers NSOs face in disseminating data, and capturing their perspectives on best practices to increase uptake, will provide insight on solutions to close the gap between data production and use.

To this end, we’re excited to announce that the Hewlett Foundation has awarded a one-year grant to AidData, Open Data Watch, and PARIS21 for a two-phase project to collect new evidence on the use and impact of official statistics.

Leveraging our survey-related expertise, AidData fielded a targeted snap poll this week of 1400 senior- and mid-level officials at NSOs in 140 low- and middle-income countries. The poll will capture NSO perspectives to better understand—from their point of view—how best to identify, assess, and promote data publication and dissemination practices that ultimately result in higher uptake of official statistics.

Complementing the survey data, Open Data Watch will collect usage statistics for national data portals and websites, uncovering patterns of use that can inform the design of future portals.

Building on previous research that examines the capacity of NSOs to increase use of official statistics and whether those approaches work from their perspective, the snap poll will gather insights directly from the organizations and leaders that produce and use this data to ask:

  • What are NSO leaders’ perspectives on the use of official statistics?
  • Who are the NSOs’ current users? Who are their intended users?
  • What do NSO leaders consider to be the barriers to use, and which solutions should be prioritized to address these barriers?
  • What are the principle avenues for disseminating statistics to users inside and outside the government? Which work well and which need to be improved?
  • How do NSOs currently monitor data use? What are some of the best practices, tools, and methods that could help with better monitoring of data use and making corrective actions to increase use?

Following our analysis of the survey results and interviews with leaders of NSOs in select low- and middle-income countries, we will prepare a final report with our findings and recommendations. Open Data Watch will work with AidData to apply its expertise in data management and statistical capacity building in developing countries to the framing of the report, due for release in Fall 2018.

From there, we will conduct targeted briefings with organizations such as PARIS21, the World Bank, and the UN Statistical Commission, and receive feedback from meetings including the International Open Data Conference and the UN Statistical Commission.

Together, these processes will offer much-needed NSO perspectives to inform future capacity building initiatives. The project will monitor the uptake of recommended actions and seek avenues for NSOs to continue implementing data use improvements beyond its completion.

AidData is excited to begin this collaboration with Open Data Watch and PARIS21 to expand our knowledge of how official statistics are used, what tools and strategies NSOs can deploy to increase dissemination of their data, and how NSOs can meet the challenge to increase the use and impact of statistics toward the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030.

Mac McDermott served as a Junior Program Manager at AidData from 2017 to 2018.

Sarina Patterson is AidData's Communications Manager.