Harnessing data for decision making and sustainable development

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has established 12 Thematic Groups comprising leading scientists, engineers, academics and practitioners from business and civil society to promote solutions to key challenges of sustainable development. The Thematic Groups are solution oriented rather than research oriented and aim to identify practical solutions to the challenges of sustainable development.

Dr. Keith Shepherd has been invited as a member of the new Thematic Network on Data for Sustainable Development. This thematic group will serve as an information and education hub on data collection, processing, and dissemination for sustainable development. It seeks to identify solution-orientated approaches to measuring progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to strengthen the cross-sectoral and multi-scalar analysis of data for SDG monitoring, and encourage greater frequency and quality of data production and monitoring.

On board, Dr. Keith Shepherd will articulate his strong view that target-setting is not enough to realize development goals as this might be costly, can lead to unintended consequences or even inhibit learning. In his recent article in Nature , Keith suggests that the most effective way to support SDGs is by integrating a decision analysis approach comprising of five basic principles: (i) Replacing targets with measures of investment return, (ii) Modelling intervention decisions, (iii) Integrating expert knowledge, (iv) Including uncertainty in predictive models, and (v) Measuring the most informative variables.

In support, Prof. Sachs in his blog emphasizes on the need to harness data for decision-making by investing in building innovative data systems that draw on new sources of real-time data for sustainable development. Moreover, there is a need to acknowledge existing dilemma in decision-making for development, which necessitates working closely with decision makers to develop decision analysis concepts and tools aligned with their development decision making objectives.

With much to leap ahead from the expansive data sources, a practical solution to the challenges of sustainable development can obtained; while as well answering the complex questions on what information is needed to make better development decisions, what needs to be done to maximize a nation’s capacity to meet the SDGs and how to measure the progress on SDGs implementation.

More information

Data for Sustainable Development Thematic Network

The Data Revolution for Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development Goals: Trade-offs and opportunities