There is an ever-growing need for a more holistic picture of development processes worldwide and interoperability solutions that can be scaled, driven by global development agendas such as the 2030 Agenda and the Open Data movement. This requires the ability to join up data across multiple data sources and standards to create actionable information.
Solutions that create value for front-line decision-makers – health centre managers, local school authorities or water and sanitation committees, for example, and those engaged in government accountability – will be crucial to meet the data needs of the SDGs, and do so in an internationally comparable way. While progress has been made at both a national and international level, moving from principle to practice by embedding interoperability into day-to-day work continues to present challenges.
Based on research and learning generated by the JUDS project team at Development Initiatives and Publish What You Fund, as well as inputs from interviews with key stakeholders, this report identifies five ‘frontiers’ for data interoperability policy:
- Consolidating existing principles. It’s now less a question of if the many principles related to interoperability across a number of agendas will be harmonised, but when.
- Moving beyond exposing problems and towards solving them through better availability of guidance, tools and approaches generated by an increasing number of data initiatives.
- Turning big ideas into practical solutions – which is starting to happen at an international and national level, and efforts such as unlocking the benefits of big data for development should be scaled up
- Producing global standards and regulations that work for all to meet challenges such as the need for disaggregated data while maintaining privacy.
- Creating new adaptable partnerships and building bridges between key actors in national and international data communities.
The report also recognises the critical cross-sector coordination role that will be played by the Collaborative on SDG Data Interoperability, a multi-stakeholder initiative jointly led by the United Nations Statistics Division and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and a key outcome of the first UN World Data Forum (UNWDF) in 2017. The report recommends practical areas around which the Collaborative should consider structuring its work as it moves towards the second UNWDF in 2018, specifically around its role as a catalyst and facilitator.
“The Collaborative is well-placed to feed into broader political discussions at a global level on the need for investment in interoperability, and can play a key role in building support for this agenda,” said Harpinder Collacott, Executive Director at Development Initiatives.