Using Citizen-Generated Data to monitor the SDGs

Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) Revolution Roadmaps Toolkit

In 2015, the UN High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda appointed by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, first expressed the need for a “data revolution for sustainable development”. However, in order for countries around the world to embrace this data revolution it is essential to ensure that both governments and civil society organisations have access to the information needed to make the best policy choices, improve accountability and track the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at all levels, so that ultimately, we can deliver on the promise of these crucial global goals.

Citizen-generated data (CGD) is data produced by people and organisations to monitor or campaign for change on the issues that affect them. It can be collected using a simple mobile phone, analysed using free tools and then visualised to tell powerful stories. Indeed, CGD can complement official datasets by identifying and filling data gaps and can provide a snapshot of the issues faced by marginalised people.

CGD can therefore play an important role in monitoring and driving progress on sustainable development at all levels, and the SDG framework provides us with a massive opportunity for scaling up the use of this innovative new data source.

DataShift is working to support this data revolution by building the capacity and confidence of civil society organisations to produce and use CGD to monitor sustainable development progress, demand accountability and campaign for transformative change.

The DataShift team has therefore developed a “Making use of Citizen-Generated Data to monitor the SDGs” tool, as part of a Data Revolution Roadmaps Toolbox put together by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD).

The tool aims to improve the understanding and appreciation of the value of citizen­-generated data. It has been created for all stakeholders interested in fostering effective monitoring and accountability for the SDGs at national, sub-national and international levels.

The tool provides concrete examples of how CGD is being used in practice to track progress on SDG-­related issues, along with a number of recommendations on how to foster a collaborative approach between governments and those producing the data. The intention is to use CGD to influence government decisions and policies which actively support an inclusive, diverse, and joined up approach to the monitoring of the SDGs and to improve accountability.

In one of the case studies in Indonesia, both national and local government had been looking for ways to collect and understand citizens’ opinions on public services and development to support better evidence­-based policy-making.

Pulse Lab Jakarta, a partnership between the United Nations and the Ministry of National Development and Planning – designed “Mining Citizen Feedback Data for Enhanced Local Government Decision-­Making”, a project that combined data on citizens’ opinions from multiple sources. The project highlighted the potential of using existing datasets, but also the need to integrate new information management systems into national and local governance.

Through this multi-stakeholder collaboration, the project strengthened local governance arrangements by making them more accountable, inclusive and responsive to citizens’ needs. While an initiative of this nature would have a direct impact on SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), it would also have the potential to impact citizen’s feedback on other SDGs, such as education (SDG 4) and health (SDG 3).

This is just one example that demonstrates the potential to harness the power of collective intelligence and individual experience, raise awareness about under-reported SDG-related topics and fill gaps where data is missing against SDG indicators.

To read about further examples and a set of practical recommendations about how to leverage citizen-generated data for SDG monitoring and accountability, the whole “Making use of Citizen-Generated Data to monitor the SDGs” is available here.

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