Interoperability is the ability to join up data streams in ways that allow both machines and humans to understand and contextualize the data they contain. It’s thanks to interoperability that you can use Microsoft Office tools on an Apple iPad, send and receive emails from a range of email providers, or collaborate remotely with colleagues on the same spreadsheet using a multitude of devices. Within the data revolution for sustainable development, interoperability enables the overlaying of earth observation, administrative, or mobile-derived data with statistical data, helping to both achieve and monitor progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ultimately, interoperability allows decision-makers to join up and contextualize a variety of data in ways that are most useful to them.

Since 2017, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (the Global Partnership) and the United Nations Statistics Division have jointly managed and maintained a Collaborative on SDG Data Interoperability (the Collaborative). In 2018, the Collaborative published two documents, “Using Data to Join Up Development Efforts” (the Brief) and “Data Interoperability: A Practitioner’s Guide to Joining Up Data in the Development Sector” (the Guide). Taken together, these two documents provide an overview of what interoperability means for statisticians, development professionals who manage data, and IT specialists working in sustainable development. Between them, the Brief and the Guide define and explore five pillars of interoperability identified by the Collaborative:

  • Data management, governance, and interoperability.

  • Canonical data and metadata models.

  • Classifications and vocabularies.

  • Standardized interfaces.

  • Implementation of linked-data approaches.

    This document builds on the foundations laid by the Guide and Brief and introduces the Joined- Up Data Maturity Assessment (the Maturity Assessment) developed by the Collaborative in 2019–2020. (See Annex A for the full Maturity Assessment.) The Guide and the Brief were endorsed by the UN Statistical Commission at its 50th session in 2019 and are now curated by the Commission’s Working Group on Open Data.