SDG 17.18.1 Unveiled:
A Milestone in Sustainable Development Data
by the Open Data Watch Team
18 December 2023
The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) has released data for one of the last remaining SDG indicators—SDG 17.18.1. This indicator measures the capacity of national statistical systems to produce indicators of sustainable development. Open Data Watch is pleased to announce that the Interagency and Expert Group on the SDGs (IAEG-SDG) has selected the Open Data Inventory (ODIN) produced by Open Data Watch as one of the two indicators for SDG 17.18.1.
Now, having reached the midpoint of the SDGs last September, is an appropriate time to examine the available evidence for measuring and monitoring the SDGs. This Q&A blog explains the significance of SDG 17.18.1 and its importance for achieving the SDGs.
What is SDG 17.18.1, exactly?
SDG 17.18.1 falls under Goal 17, which calls for strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. Target 17.18 focuses on enhancing capacity-building support to developing countries by significantly increasing the availability of high-quality, timely, and reliable data.
Indicator 17.18.1 is intended to measure the capacity of national statistical systems to produce indicators of sustainable development, including full disaggregation when relevant to the target. This aligns with the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive data collection and reporting to support informed decision-making on a global scale.
Who are the custodian agencies for indicator 17.18.1?
Two organizations are the custodians of indicator 17.18.1: Open Data Watch and the World Bank. The data for this indicator is sourced from Open Data Watch’s Open Data Inventory (ODIN) and the World Bank’s Statistical Performance Indicators (SPI).
What role do custodian agencies play in ensuring the accuracy and reliability of data for SDG indicators?
Custodian agencies play a vital role in the compilation and verification of country data and metadata. Their responsibility includes submitting the data, along with regional and global aggregates, to the UNSD. These agencies ensure the international comparability of country data by developing standards and recommending methodologies for monitoring. In addition to global reporting, custodian agencies work to enhance national monitoring and reporting capacity through their work. All data submitted to UNSD undergoes a validation and approval process by the respective countries before final submission.
Why does the release of these data matter? How does achieving progress on SDG 17.18.1 contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals?
The SDGs have elevated the importance of data, but there lacked a standard measure for country’s progress in producing and disseminating development data—until now. The adoption of 17.18.1 marks the completion of extensive methodological work to develop a consistent, reproducible assessment of the state of countries’ official statistics and to measure progress toward providing the robust indicators of social, economic, and environmental development required to achieve the SDGs. The indicators play a crucial role in tailoring SDG implementation to each country’s unique context, enabling informed decision making and facilitating effective monitoring and reporting to ensure accountable progress.
Where can the data be accessed?
The data for this indicator was made available as of 15 December 2023 on the United Nations’ SDG Global Database
Why did it take so long to establish this SDG indicator?
Navigating the discussion on the relevance of specific global SDG indicators to individual countries without an independent, universally accepted methodology for evaluating indicator availability posed challenges for defining an indicator for SDG 17.18.1. After careful review, the widely recognized ODIN indicator of data coverage and the World Bank’s Statistical Performance Indicator were selected as complementary measures of statistical capacity.
Were there any surprising findings or patterns observed in the data during the analysis process? Are there regions or countries that stand out as exemplary in meeting the requirements of SDG 17.18.1?
Although there is a positive correlation between how rich a country is and how much data it produces, there is considerable variation at every level of income, indicating that having more data is more than a function of money. There are high-income countries that score worse on the availability of data than low-income countries and some middle-income countries score better than most high-income countries.
How can countries use the insights from SDG 17.18.1 to enhance their data production capacities?
Countries can harness the insights from SDG 17.18.1, particularly through the user perspective of ODIN, to assess the availability and openness of their statistical systems. The detailed findings from SDG 17.18.1 offer a nuanced understanding of a country’s data production landscape, highlighting areas of strength and areas requiring improvement. This information becomes a valuable resource for countries seeking to enhance their data production capacities. Additionally, Open Data Watch provides training and advisory services, supporting countries in addressing specific challenges identified through the assessment.
How can the global community, including policymakers and researchers, actively engage with and contribute to the ongoing success of this indicator?
The global community can actively engage with and contribute to the ongoing success of SDG 17.18.1 by utilizing the data as a comprehensive assessment tool. Policymakers can leverage those insights to identify areas where countries excel and areas that require additional support, guiding targeted capacity-building initiatives. Researchers can use the data to conduct in-depth analyses, contributing valuable perspectives on the factors influencing data production capacities. Through collaborative efforts, countries can share best practices and lessons learned, fostering a collective approach to strengthen global statistical capacities in line with sustainable development goals.
What is the overall goal of the establishment of this indicator?
Looking towards 2030, the ultimate objective is to witness a substantial increase in the volume of data accessible at the country level. This indicator not only facilitates inter-country comparisons but also propels progress towards achieving the broader objectives of the SDGs on a global scale.