Data is what powers progress across all the SDGs. Investments and partnerships to build stronger data systems will unlock a powerful data dividend with a $32 return for every $1 invested. Better data will be the engine that revolutionizes decision making, accelerates countries’ digital transformation agendas, and opens up new economic opportunities, for a more equal and sustainable world.

But data systems lack investment, and as a result, while we are at the halfway point on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), critical information is missing. Only one in five countries has data to report on the climate goal, despite it being the existential challenge of our times. Fewer than half of UN member states can measure progress on gender equality. We cannot achieve what we cannot measure.  

Data and technology will deliver the information and evidence we need to accelerate progress on the goals. Since the SDGs were agreed, the amount of data in the world has increased more than five-fold, and corporate investment in AI has increased more than ten-fold. Countries and their development partners need to act now to avoid being left behind.

Transformational change

Recognizing the significance of data to drive progress, the United Nations (UN) has asked the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data to co-lead the High Impact Initiative on Data Dividend for Development, with United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the World Health Organization (WHO) on behalf of Committee for the Chief Statisticians of the United Nations System (CCS-UNS), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The Data Dividend is one of the twelve High Impact Initiatives collectively devised to secure the breakthroughs and momentum needed to achieve the SDGs. The High Impact Initiatives will be officially launched at the SDG Summit in New York in September 2023.

The initiative will bring together governments, UN agencies, civil society, and the private sector in a common cause. By 2030, we want countries to have the investment, skilled people, strong institutions and political leadership to use data and data technologies in ways that transform progress on the SDGs.

I am delighted that Ghana is playing a leading role in Unlocking the Data Dividend at the SDG Summit in September. Africa missed the first, second and third industrial revolutions, but I am determined that our continent will not miss the fourth and fifth.

Data is the lifeblood for making decisions and is what will unlock an independent, wealthy future for Africa, making sure that new economic opportunities are shared.

- Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President of Ghana

Data for a better future

The High Impact Initiative on Data Dividend for Development envisions a future where the power of data is used to accelerate sustainable development efforts worldwide for people and the planet. 

To realize this vision, the initiative will deliver on four key objectives:

  1. Enhanced data availability: All countries will commit to raising the percentage of available SDG data, following recommendations from the SDG progress reports. This commitment ensures that decision-makers have access to timely and accurate data, enabling them to identify gaps, track progress, and make informed choices.
  2. Cutting-edge data partnerships: At least 15 countries will pledge to develop cutting-edge data partnerships that bring together government actors, donors, multilateral organizations, civil society, and industry stakeholders. These collaborations will harness the potential of new data technologies in safe and ethical ways, leveraging their power to drive sustainable development and address pressing challenges.
  3. Enabling environment for data: Financial Commitments from donor countries and foundations to fund cutting edge data partnerships in 15-30 low and middle income countries to support data systems that are robust, sustainable, and capable of generating actionable insights for decision-makers. 
  4. Commitment from donors: Donor countries will pledge to develop and implement a set of principles for better investment in data systems. These principles will guide partners in optimizing their investments, including tracking aid for data and statistics in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) sectors. 

The UK is playing a leading role in 'Unlocking the Data Dividend' at the UN Sustainable Development Goal Summit in September, and I am pleased that we are doing this alongside the governments of Kenya and Ghana, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, and many others.

Our new brand, UK International Development, recognises the breadth of our work in building partnerships that go beyond aid, that advance sustainable development and build widely shared prosperity. Unlocking the data dividend will fuel progress for people around the world, improving outcomes for the poorest, tackling poverty and combating climate change.

- MP Andrew Mitchell, United Kingdom Minister of State for Development and Africa

A catalyst moment at the High Level Political Forum

As we work towards a more sustainable future, the Global Partnership will host a roundtable during this year’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF). It will serve as a catalyst to initiate decisive action and mobilize political focus on this transformative initiative. With high level speakers and growing support from crucial stakeholders, it is a pivotal moment to ignite action and rally decision-makers.

Kenya has tremendous experience in multi stakeholder partnerships. His Excellency President Dr. William Ruto launched the first ever National Partnership on Sustainable Development Data in Kenya while he was Deputy President. More investments in strengthening these partnerships will unlock the potential of new data and digital technologies in safe and ethical ways to power progress and fuel future economies in Kenya and many other countries.

- Dr. Korir Sing’Oei, Kenya Principal Secretary of Foreign Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs

Investing in data is paramount for progress. It is the foundation for how we ensure and understand advancement and human development, and will be the foundation for future growth. The High Impact Initiative on Data Dividend offers a transformative path to maximize investments through better information. By committing to enhancing data availability, fostering cutting-edge data partnerships, securing funding, and adopting principles for better investment, countries, institutions and organizations can unlock the full potential of data-driven progress. The High-Level Political Forum roundtable will mark a significant milestone on this journey, paving the way for the official launch of the initiative at the UN SDG Summit in September.

Find out more about our work in this area below.