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."