NEW YORK (September 25, 2019)—A new global effort to close the gap on data for development was launched today on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. The Data for Now initiative will put recent technological advances to work, to urgently fill crucial data gaps.

Development-related data is often outdated and incomplete. To ensure people, everywhere are counted and visible in development policymaking and programming, this timely initiative will facilitate coordinated, strategic partnerships with the aim to provide data to help drive the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Pledging a people-centred approach, the partnership will prioritize data privacy protection.  

New technologies are revolutionizing data collection, giving us the tools to change millions of lives for the better, noted Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, whose keynote address kicked off the initiative’s launch today in New York. “Through this initiative, we can blaze a trail of success, by working together to unlock data, protect people’s privacy and to fight for inclusion. We must make sure data—or lack of data—does not reinforce disadvantage.”

The initiative will bring the UN, private sector, civil society, and donors together to support Data for Now’s eight initial country partners: Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, Mongolia, Nepal, Paraguay, Rwanda, and Senegal. 

The initiative will tackle issues across humanitarian and development issues. For example there are currently an estimated 25.4 million refugees in the world who go uncounted in national statistics (UNHCR Statistical Yearbook, 2018). Data that is available is too outdated to effectively inform policies and programmes. Poverty data on two-thirds of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa is based on surveys carried out before the SDGs were agreed in 2015 (Povcal net, 2019). A UN survey in Africa and Asia found that, on average, data for only 20 percent of SDG indicators is currently available (UN SDGs report, 2018).

The Data for Now launch comes at an opportune moment, as the international community gathers in New York for the first UN summit on the SDGs since their adoption in 2015. The initiative’s four operating partners are: The World Bank, the UN Statistics Division, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Speakers who announced pledges at the event included: 

  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is creating a data lab in Rome, Italy to use big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence to get alternative agricultural measures.
  • The World Food Programme and Alibaba announced a Hunger Map platform which combines different streams of information – such as weather, population size, conflict, hazards, food security, nutrition and market information – to monitor and predict the global food security situation in near real-time. 
  • The UK Department for International Development (DfID) and the UK Office of National Statistics have set up a new data science hub in Scotland focused on international development issues and helping to build data science capability in developing countries through collaborative research and training.
  • UN Economic Commission for Africa highlighted the Digital Earth Africa project on satellite data access for the SDGs in Africa and the $18m support from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and Government of Australia.
  • Project Everyone pledged to create public-facing ‘data clocks’ – an online platform – and global clock installations, counting down on key measures like deforestation, poverty reduction and health to 2030.
  • Sustainable Development Solutions Network pledges to produce and curate real-time data on 10 key sustainable development measures by September 2020, to be showcased by Project Everyone in their data clocks.
  • Vodafone Ghana, the Government of Ghana and Flowminder are collaborating on use of anonymized mobile phone data to enhance sustainable development and to make life-saving decisions in Ghana.
  • GSMA will support the Data for Now partners with mobile big data capacity building, including for government officials, and will continue to deliver new insights for the SDGs.
  • Google and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data have entered into an MOU focused on collaborating across platforms on earth observations for the SDGs. "Big data from satellites and other sources can accelerate progress on the SDGs, but only if it can be distilled into timely, actionable insights," said Rebecca Moore, Director, Google Earth. "We’re excited to join the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data today, and contribute Google’s advanced geospatial capabilities and interoperable cloud technologies to help unlock those insights and catalyze solutions.”


Jennifer Oldfield at or +1 347 327 6568

Amber Kiwan at or +1 917 206 1837