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Decades of learning and experience from the Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building to inform the new Global Data Facility

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Pandemic recovery, crisis response, and addressing the unprecedented challenges of our times rely on a foundation of timely, fit-for-purpose data. This requires a bold, radical approach to make strategy and intension a reality. We are best able to meet this challenge by building on experience and lessons, setting the foundation for effective global partnerships.

When COVID-19 hit the Gambia, the government was well-prepared to respond effectively. Thanks to a private-public partnership, anonymized big data from cellphone towers allowed policymakers to analyze migration patterns by tracking population movements and densities across the country. The data showed that areas with the highest proportion of underprivileged households experienced the largest disruption to their mobility, suggesting that social distancing policies disproportionally affected poorer districts. These insights on the pandemic’s real-time impact were instrumental in tracking the virus’s potential spread and created an evidence base for the government to assess where to focus its resources to optimize relief and recovery efforts.

The private-public data partnership underlying these efforts was supported through a small grant from the Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB), a multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank’s Development Data Group and supported by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The TFSCB, which ended its operation last year, worked to improve statistical capacity around the world, disbursing 432 grants worth over $100 million USD to 149 low- and middle-income countries between 1999 and 2021.  The Gambian project soon became the epitome of one of the many lessons learned during the TFSCB’s 22 years of operation: small grants (in the amount of $500,000 or less) can have significant impact.

COVID-19 Response Monitoring Projects in Africa

COVID-19 Response Monitoring Projects in Africa — one of the highlights of the TFSCB booklet

The TFSCB experiences inform the work of the Global Data Facility (GDF), the new World Bank-hosted fund to support data and statistics priorities at the global, regional, national, and community levels.  Launched last year, it is designed to scale up the generation, accessibility, and use of actionable data for recovery and development.

The GDF builds and expands on the impactful legacy of its predecessor, described in the recently published TFSCB booklet, featuring a selection of key TFSCB grants, project summaries, details of TFSCB support, and results achieved.

Top three lessons learned during the TFSCB program that can inform other financing endeavors aimed at improving the availability of data:

  1. Building national demand for statistics increases the effectiveness and sustainability of capacity building activities

TFSCB grants were the most successful when their activities highlighted the value of using data, increasing national demand for statistics among various stakeholders. In these contexts, countries were more likely to continue statistical capacity building activities after the end of the grant, as well as to seek additional resources to support these activities going forward.

Informed by this insight, the GDF has enshrined country ownership and country leadership as its central priority. To truly enable the achievement of sustainable results and ensure long-term, effective financing for data and statistics priorities, the extent to which country leaders take up the mantle and accountability to implement the data revolution is the singular test of this collaborative enterprise. This includes bringing sufficient domestic spending to bear to sustain and expand on any progress achieved through the GDF, such as harnessing the current momentum toward the development of truly whole-of-government data systems and systemic support for data capital needs, as well as broader data literacy and data use at the national and subnational levels.

  1. Partnering with other organizations is crucial for achieving systemic change

Building the capacity of countries to collect, share, and use high-quality data and statistics is a long-term objective that requires multiple types of interventions across several stakeholders. While small grants are effective for addressing urgent gaps in technical and operational skills, piloting innovative ideas, and catalyzing longer-term engagement in statistics, future donors and implementers should work towards coordinating approaches to support all aspects of national statistical systems.

That is why the GDF is part of a new global financing architecture developed in the framework of a partnership between the World Bank and the United Nations, in close collaboration and coordination with country partners and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. Working with the United Nations’ Complex Risk Analytics Fund (CRAF’d), the GDF has been designed to catalyze and incentivize significant additional financing, including under the $93 billion replenishment package of the International Development Association (IDA20).

  1. Developing skills and tools that can be applied across a variety of statistical programs is critical to ensuring sustainability

When TFSCB grants supported national statistics offices (NSOs) in developing new tools and approaches that could be applied beyond the grant context, they resulted in long-lasting changes to the data collection processes of recipient countries.

Recognizing the above, the GDF supports investments in both the fundamentals and the frontiers of data and statistics. It is particularly designed to support the provision of expert advice and technical assistance to enable low-and middle-income countries to realize the benefits of—and safeguard against risks inherent to—strengthened data systems and data capital and related innovations.

The sum total of these efforts is intended to support the achievement of integrated national data systems, as recommended in the World Development Report 2021: Data for Better Lives, and to enable the statistical capacity building necessary to realize the 2030 Agenda, as called for by the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data. This includes support to modernize data systems and use of a range of new data sources for better decision-making, improved efficiency, and strengthened information integrity at scale.

Next-generation financing instruments like the GDF catalyzing domestic financing and strengthening national and subnational data and statistics across all Sustainable Development Goals, are key to supporting better data for better lives. 


Haishan Fu

Chief Statistician of the World Bank and Director of the Development Data Group

Paula McLeod

Head of Profession for Statistics, Global Statistics Centre for Delivery & Analysis; Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)

Philip Cockerill

Statistician, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)

Craig Hammer

Senior Program Manager, Development Data Group, World Bank

Masako Hiraga

Senior Statistician/Economist, Development Data Group, World Bank

Maria Gabriela Tercero Gomez

Consultant, Development Data Group, World Bank

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