Executive summary

Despite modest gains in recent years, many developing countries, especially low-income countries and fragile states, continue to lack foundational data and statistics for effective policymaking. This lack of data and statistics is evident across all statistical domains: baselines for the measurement of the size and structure of the economy are often outdated, poverty surveys are lacking or conducted infrequently, births and deaths are not registered, data on land and the environment are incomplete.

A large number of international development actors actively engage in strengthening statistical capacity and the availability and use of data and statistics in low- and middle-income countries with allocations of official development assistance (ODA) of about USD 700 million per year, equivalent to 0.3% of total ODA. Actors include most members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), international financial institutions, UN agencies, private foundations and civil society organisations. They provide different types of support, from funding for statistical operations or reforms to training and technical assistance, in line with their mandate and overarching development co-operation strategies. And they target different actors within national data ecosystems, different government entities but also data users outside of government. All of these actors are also users of development data and statistics, investing in data to guide their planning and help them monitor results.

This diversity in the international co-operation landscape raises challenges around co-ordination and coherence, especially in partner countries with low capacity to absorb different types of support and in which domestic demand for data and statistics can be low. Yet coherence is critical in an area where production requires different government entities to work together and in which the same data and statistics can generate value for many different stakeholders. The risk of fragmentation and duplication of efforts is thus substantial and their costs high. In addition, the rapid pace of innovation in the way official data are sourced, shared and used in the context of digitalisation will often mean that support to data and statistical systems will have to adapt.

Understanding the current state of official development assistance for data and statistics is a first step towards strengthening it. Informed by consultations with DAC members and complementary analysis of ODA flows for data and statistics since 2010, the Data for Development Profiles provide detailed information about DAC members’ activities in support of data and statistical systems in developing countries. Five key insights from a comparative analysis of the individual profiles can inform future dialogue and peer learning for more effective support:

  1. 1. DAC members’ overarching thematic and geographic priorities drive funding of data and statistics. A few DAC members identify the strengthening of data and statistical capacity as an overarching priority and even fewer have a dedicated team or focal point for all data and statistics-related programmes and projects. DAC members’ often provide support in line with their overarching policy priorities and targeted to strategic partner countries.

  2. 2. DAC members increasingly invest in sectoral data and statistics. The profiles document a shift over the last decade away from core support to national statistical systems and offices towards investments in sectoral data.

  3. 3. ODA to data and statistics is increasingly concentrated in fragile states. DAC members’ bilateral ODA has become increasingly concentrated on the African continent, in low-income countries and in fragile contexts. A larger share of country-allocable ODA is allocated to countries that face governance challenges.

  4. 4. Project-type interventions are preferred to joint-funding mechanisms. ODA activities in support of data and statistics in developing countries increasingly take the form of project-type interventions. Annual contributions to programmes of implementing partners (e.g. trust funds managed by multilaterals) have remained constant overall but are used by a larger group of DAC members and are becoming more diverse in terms of their objectives. Contributions to basket funds have decreased.

  5. 5. Country ownership drives successful results. DAC members point to the importance of country ownership to ensure that support to data and statistics is sustainable. However, tensions can arise between the role of providers as partners helping to build national data and statistical systems and users of development data.

The Data for Development Profiles provide insights on the objectives and motivations of DAC members’ technical assistance, capacity building and other support for producing, disseminating and using data and statistics in developing countries. As the level of interest and investments in data-driven development through development co-operation grows, development actors will need to design holistic strategies that guide various dimensions and challenges of data and statistics for sustainable development. Data strategies should build on practice, experience and lessons focused on increasing effectiveness for more sustainable results, paying attention to three particular insights emerging in this report and across the individual country profiles:

  1. 1. Increase understanding and manage the tensions and potential trade-offs between the different drivers of ODA investments in data and statistics for sustainable development and for effective development co-operation.

  2. 2. Domestically, prioritise inter and intra-institutional co-ordination of data investment and projects to find more synergies for greater impact and more coherent agency-wide support for national statistical systems.

  3. 3. Identify and adopt international good practices that result in more coherent and effective international co-operation, that draw on peer learning and lessons, and that promote more aligned and harmonised co-operation for data for development.

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