But how do we know where to build these roads and schools? How do we find out who needs health facilities, and what kinds of skills exist in a particular country in order to design better employment programs? How do we know where and which kinds of deprivation exist, in order to design safety net programs that actually work?
The answer? Data. Good data. And lots of it. The World Bank Group’s 2014 Policy Research Report: A Measured Approach to Ending Poverty and Boosting Shared Prosperity, takes a carefully considered view of the progress and challenges of measuring and monitoring the twin goals, and pays special attention to data.
If you’ve been reading anything related to international development in the last year, you will have seen rich conversations around the the idea of a “data revolution”. What exactly would a data revolution look like? What would its aims be? Is it about data collection, use, analysis, all of the above, or something else entirely?
To answer these and other questions, the United Nations Secretary General recently formed an Independent Expert Advisory Group (IEAG) on the “Data revolution for development”. I’m part of this group: we’ve been tasked with making recommendations on how to achieve a data revolution. We have to do it quickly - and we want to get your inputs too!
The most recent data show significant strides in reducing maternal mortality at the national level over the past 20 years. Improvements in access to maternal health care, especially in skilled birth assistance, have contributed to the reduction of maternal mortality.
While these improvements are impressive, the national level data often mask inequalities in skilled birth assistance within countries. There may be gaps within a country, for example, where wealthy women might have better access than women from poor households. According to the World Health Organization, "The high number of maternal deaths in some areas of the world reflects inequities in access to health services, and highlights the gap between rich and poor."
An unprecedented number of individuals and organizations are finding ways to explore, interpret and use Open Data. Public agencies are hosting Open Data events such as meetups, hackathons and data dives. The potential of these initiatives is great, including support for economic development (McKinsey, 2013), anti-corruption (European Public Sector Information Platform, 2014) and accountability (Open Government Partnership, 2012). But is Open Data's full potential being realized?
A news item from Computer Weekly casts doubt. A recent report notes that, in the United Kingdom (UK), poor data quality is hindering the government's Open Data program. The report goes on to explain that – in an effort to make the public sector more transparent and accountable – UK public bodies have been publishing spending records every month since November 2010. The authors of the report, who conducted an analysis of 50 spending-related data releases by the Cabinet Office since May 2010, found that that the data was of such poor quality that using it would require advanced computer skills.
Far from being a one-off problem, research suggests that this issue is ubiquitous and endemic. Some estimates indicate that as much as 80 percent of the time and cost of an analytics project is attributable to the need to clean up "dirty data" (Dasu and Johnson, 2003).
The under-5 mortality rate worldwide has fallen by 49% since 1990, according to new child mortality estimates and press release launched today. This information is also summarized in the report Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2014 by the United Nations Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME). Put another way, about 17,000 fewer children under-5 died each day in 2013 than in 1990.
These rates are falling faster than at any other time during the past two decades: from a 1.2% annual reduction during 1990-1995 to a 4% reduction during 2005-2013.
More children making it to their fifth birthday
The major improvements in under-5 child survival since 1990 are attributable to better access to affordable, quality health care, as well as the expansion of health programs that reach the most vulnerable newborns and children.
The 49% drop – from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990, to 46 deaths in 2013 – means that a baby born today has a dramatically better chance of survival to age 5 compared with a baby born in 1990.
More progress needed to achieve the global Millennium Development Goal 4 target
Four out of 6 World Bank Group regions are on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4), which is to reduce the under-5 mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are two regions where the rates of decline remain insufficient to reach MDG 4 on a global scale. In 2013, the highest under-5 mortality rate was in Sub-Saharan Africa, where there were 92 deaths per 1,000 live births or where 1 in 11 children die before reaching the age of 5.
As a former public school teacher, I have a special place in my heart for literacy issues. I know first-hand both the joy of reading with children and the very real pains that struggling with literacy can leave on a child’s life.
In light of my professional exposure to this topic and the fact that yesterday was International Literacy Day, I decided to take a look at the World Bank’s literacy data to get an idea of how literacy rates worldwide are progressing or still facing challenges.
The theme of this year’s International Literacy Day 2014 is “Literacy and Sustainable Development.” For developing countries in particular, literacy is one of the key elements needed to promote sustainable development as it empowers people to make the right decisions in the areas of educational growth and socioeconomic development.