Data is a secret weapon, making overseas aid and domestic spending more impactful.

With countries around the world facing escalating food prices, global health challenges and climate emergencies, the demands on overseas aid budgets are only going to increase. Yet, donor governments are making tough decisions to balance spending at home and abroad, as they face their own cost of living crises. That’s why it's more important than ever that overseas aid is invested smartly. 

Analysis published today by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data shows how channeling funding to data helps overseas aid investments achieve more for less. Robust national data systems can create real savings for governments and donors funding international development and crisis response programmes. 

Depending on the sector, analysis of past investments in data shows they have driven between $7 – $73 in economic benefits for every dollar spent. This means on average, $32 of economic benefits has been generated from every dollar invested in data. Alongside the economic return on investment, the research - which was conducted by Dalberg - shows that stronger data systems drive a diverse range of powerful benefits, improving quality of life, livelihoods and leading to greater efficiencies in social programmes. 

Maximizing impact has become critical as the devastating effects of climate change, such as those felt in Pakistan in recent weeks, become increasingly frequent around the world. In Bangladesh, for example, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund used a data-driven early weather warning system to predict major floods. The Fund drew upon their data insights, evacuating 200 million people before monsoon flooding reached its peak and reducing the usual response cost per person by half, saving over $5 million. 

Early warning systems have also been used to increase the effectiveness of education. In Guatemala, which has one of the highest school dropout rates in Latin America, the Ministry of Health and the World Bank developed a data system to identify at-risk students. In the programme’s first year, it stopped just under 1,000 students dropping out of education, in the transition between primary and secondary school.

“The world faces a perfect storm of crises and glaring information gaps that are hampering response and relief efforts. Yet we have this bold, ambitious opportunity in front of us to tackle the challenges,” said Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General. “Investments in data pay for themselves many times over so now is the time for world leaders to come together to make life-changing data systems a reality.”

“As overseas aid spending is squeezed, it’s more crucial than ever that we bring the world’s best data to the world’s worst problems,” said Claire Melamed, CEO of Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. “Strong data systems not only improve people’s life chances, but they also allow funders to be confident about their investments and see their budgets go further, to create more impact.”

“Without good data, governments are making decisions with guess work. With it, they have a powerful tool at their fingertips to put resources to the best use possible for their citizens”, said Sonila Cook, CEO of Dalberg Advisors. “There’s a clear economic imperative. Investing in data is spending to save. Investments in national data systems can have multiplier effects, improving service delivery across government.”

The United Nations and the World Bank have been working at the highest level to launch a new data financing architecture, Data with Purpose, driving investments to data systems to tackle crisis response and scale up sustainable development, including through two new financing instruments, the ‘Complex Risk Analytics Fund’ and the ‘Global Data Facility’. 

These new facilities will turn isolated and fragmented pockets of funding into highly effective, coordinated investments. They will allow overseas development assistance to be more impactful and go further than before. 

World leaders will come together today in a high-level event at the 77th UN General Assembly, joining forces to tackle the urgent crises of our times. Together they will advocate for the unlocking of at least $50 million annually and $500 million over 10 years to accelerate sustainable development, tackle emergencies, and transform livelihoods with better data and purpose-driven approaches.

For further information, including requests for interviews with spokespeople, please contact Victoria Gilbert:, +44 7821922778.

For the UN General Assembly discussion on this topic, please tune into the event on Thursday 22 September 8-10am Eastern Time, featuring the UN Deputy-Secretary General Amina Mohammed and Mari Pangestu, World Bank Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships and many other high-level speakers. See event details: 

Return on investment analysis

  • The analysis referred to in this release comes from an investment case carried out by the global consulting firm, Dalberg. See the full investment case here.
  • The Investment Case was commissioned by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and carried out by Dalberg Advisors.
  • The calculation that ‘every dollar invested in strengthening data systems generates $32 in economic benefits’ is a global average, taken from analysis of previous investments in data and data systems. The economic return from data system investments varies widely between countries, sectors, and even specific applications.

The new data financing architecture: Data with Purpose

  • Data with Purpose is a new financing architecture that will build stronger integrated data systems, from crisis response and humanitarian interventions, through to scaling up social, economic, and sustainable development. It will do this through two funds : the Complex Risk Analytics Fund and the Global Data Facility
  • The Complex Risk Analytics Fund (CRAF’d) supports diverse stakeholders in building open data ecosystems for crisis anticipation, prevention, and response – grounded in shared principles. Focused on fragile settings, CRAF’d will help secure critical data and insights for faster, more targeted, and dignified support to lives and livelihoods in the moments that matter most.
  • The Global Data Facility (GDF) will invest in strengthening data systems and capacity in low- and middle-income countries. It will leverage support from across international organizations – including from the World Bank (IDA/IBRD funds), IMF, and OECD – and catalyze domestic financing to strengthen the quality and sustainability of national and subnational data and statistical systems. Through the GDF, countries can work with development partners to invest in the data that underpins progress across all the SDGs, increasing the efficiency of other investments, enabling accountability, and accelerating progress. The GDF will be supported by the Clearinghouse for Development Data, a new multi-stakeholder initiative supported by the Bern Network, designed to help increase transparency and efficiency of international financial support for data activities.

For more information: