Australia’s official development assistance (ODA) to data and statistics has a clear thematic focus in line with its overarching development co-operation priorities. Its support frequently aims to strengthen general statistical capacity, gender statistics, and health and disability data. Australia’s support has a strong focus on the Asia-Pacific region, with nearly three-fourths of its ODA for data and statistics targeted to small island developing states (SIDS).

Australia’s Development Program is concentrated in the Indo-Pacific, particularly the Pacific, Timor-Leste and Southeast Asia. Australia has substantially pivoted its development programme to address the impacts of COVID-19. Its priorities, as articulated in its new Partnerships for Recovery strategy, are health, security, stability and economic recovery; as well as protecting the most vulnerable, especially women and girls and those living with a disability. It is a champion internationally on behalf of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

According to OECD data and research,1 Australia supported data and statistics in developing countries with close to USD 10 million per year (in 2018 prices) between 2017 and 2019 (Figure 1). While the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) takes the lead, it partners with different actors, including Australian public-sector agencies such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Geoscience Australia, private foundations, research and teaching institutions and different multilateral organisations.

  • Statistical capacity building: Australia supported the Ten-Year Pacific Statistics Strategy (TYPSS) 2010-20 through funding of the ABS, the Secretariat for the Pacific Community and the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21) to deliver technical assistance to national statistics offices in pacific island countries.

  • Data for Health: In 2015, together with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Australian government co-founded the Data for Health Initiative, an eight-year initiative which aims to partner with low- and middle-income country governments to strengthen public health data and increase their use in policy decisions and public health investments. The emphasis of the initiative is on vital statistics, especially death registration, a statistical domain in which many developing countries are lagging behind.

  • Agricultural data and statistics: In 2019, Australia invested AUD 1.5 million to support the 50x2030 Initiative, a multi-partner programme that aims to increase the capacity of 50 low- and lower middle-income countries to produce, analyse and apply data to decisions in the agricultural sectors that support rural development and food security. The initiative is implemented through a partnership between the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

  • Gender data: In line with DFAT’s objective to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, Australia provides core and earmarked funding to UN Women to strengthen gender statistics, including the agency’s Women Count strategy.

  • Geospatial data: In 2019, the Australian government and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust established Digital Earth (DE) Africa, a Geoscience Australia digital platform for the use of satellite information to address sustainable development challenges. Digital Earth Africa aims to democratise the capacity to process and analyse satellite data for the entire African continent by providing freely available, analysis-ready products on a vast number of issues, including soil and coastal erosion; agriculture, forest and desert development; water availability and quality; and changes to human settlements. It aims to enable policy makers, scientists, the private sector and civil society to address social, environmental and economic changes and to develop an ecosystem for innovation across sectors. To ensure that Digital Earth Africa benefits all Africans, the programme is implementing a Gender Equality, Diversity and Social Inclusion (GEDSI) Strategy into all its systems, activities and organisational culture. The programme is actively supported by a wide range of international stakeholders and is scalable elsewhere across the globe.

The Ten-Year Pacific Statistics Strategy aimed to explicitly address challenges often encountered in technical assistance by national statistical offices. It was developed in recognition of the need for a comprehensive plan to drive the improvement and development of statistics in the Pacific region, moving away from annual and ad hoc planning and resourcing of statistical collections and related statistical activities. To avoid uncoordinated cycles of statistical production, and national statistical offices from becoming overstretched in terms of capacity and under-resourced for their core census and survey programmes, the Ten-Year Pacific Statistics Strategy sought to provide a longer term framework for improvements in the collection and utilisation of statistics, to make efficient use of resources across the region, and to provide regional strategic guidance.

Advancing gender equality and empowering women and girls is a priority for Australian development co-operation and improving the availability, accessibility and use of quality data and statistics is seen as key to achieving this objective. Gender equality is thus a major policy objective of Australia’s support to data and statistics in developing countries: nearly two-thirds of its ODA in this area aims to contribute to it (Figure 2).

In addition to its support of UN Women (see above), DFAT, in partnership with the Australian National University and the International Women’s Development Agency, supports a programme on improving gendered poverty data (2016-20). This initiative further developed the Individual Deprivation Measure (IDM) – a new individual-level, gender-sensitive, multidimensional measure of poverty and deprivation. The IDM assesses poverty at the individual level across 15 dimensions, identified through participatory research with women and men living in poverty. Studies have been completed in Indonesia, South Africa, Fiji and Solomon Islands. The data collected have enabled detailed and nuanced policy briefs highlighting the vulnerabilities of certain population groups to COVID-19, and where governments need to focus interventions to protect the most vulnerable.

As a champion of disability-inclusive development, Australia supports global capacity to collect and use disability-disaggregated data. Between 2016 and 2018, DFAT provided significant funding for disability data: AUD 1.4 million to support the Washington Group (WG) on Disability Statistics and AUD 1.1 million to support the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). It works with the Washington Group to support the recommendations of the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Disability Data and Statistics, Monitoring and Evaluation, including support for members states and development partners to use the Washington Group-questions more widely in data collection systems. Since 2019, Australia also supports UNICEF to disseminate and build capacity on the Washington Group Child Functioning Module.2

Between 2017 and 2019, Australia sought to strengthen general statistical capacity in partner countries (45% of total disbursements) as well as gender statistics (28%) and health data (18%) (Figure 2). There is a clear correspondence between the key projects described above and these three domains, with the TYPSS aiming to support general statistical capacity, Australia’s partnership with UN Women on gender statistics, and its partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies on health data and statistics.

Finally, Australia is also supporting Big Data for development, through Pulse Lab Jakarta, which is a joint data innovation facility of the United Nations (Global Pulse) and the government of Indonesia, which aims to harness Big Data, artificial intelligence and human-centred design for sustainable development and humanitarian action. Australia provided funding in 2012, when the Pulse Lab Jakarta was established, and in 2019 for its second phase (2019-23).

The regional focus of Australia’s support is chiefly on the Oceania and Asia regions (especially South and Southeast Asia), including many SIDS (Figure 3 and Figure 4). Between 2017 and 2019, Afghanistan and Indonesia, but also Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste were major recipients of Australia’s data- and statistics-related ODA.

One key characteristic of Australia’s ODA to data and statistics is a large share, nearly 40%, allocated to regional initiatives, especially since 2015 (Figure 4) and around 10-40% of Australia’s ODA to data and statistics in recent years was allocated to specific countries. At least 60%, and up to 95%, of Australia’s country-allocable ODA to data and statistics was typically targeted to SIDS, which are often lower middle-income countries. The share targeted directly to upper middle-income countries has fallen to close to zero after a peak at around 16% in 2012 (Figure 5). More than half, and up to 80%, of Australia’s country-allocable ODA in recent years was targeted to fragile contexts, with a lower share in 2019 due to Australia’ support for the Global Pulse Lab Jakarta.

Between 2017 and 2019, around half of Australia’s ODA to data and statistics was delivered in the form of project-type interventions; the other half was delivered in the form of contributions to specific-purpose programmes and funds managed by implementing partners (Figure 6). The share delivered in the form of contributions to specific-purpose programmes and funds rose steadily between 2014 and 2018.

Between 2017 and 2019, the largest share of Australia’s ODA to data and statistics, 54%, was delivered through multilaterals (Figure 7). This includes primarily UN Women, which served as the implementing partner for about one-fourth of Australia’s total ODA to data and statistics, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, which was responsible for implementation of nearly one-fifth. About 15% was delivered through non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including the Data for Health Initiative, an Australian NGO, and the Asia Foundation, which conducts survey research in Afghanistan and Bangladesh into public perceptions of democracy and elections, identity, and violence.


← 1. The analysis in this profile is based on official data reported by members to the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System. It is published under the responsibility of the OECD. OECD analysts mined the database using a text search with manual curation. Where relevant, members contributed additional data to fill gaps. Please see the methodological annex for further details on the data analysis.

← 2. Designed by UNICEF and the Washington Group, the Child Functioning Module (CFM) aims to better identify all children with disabilities. The CFM assesses difficulties in vision, hearing, mobility, communication/comprehension, behaviour and learning (all ages); dexterity and playing (2-4 year olds); and self-care, remembering, focusing attention, coping with change, relationships and emotions (5-17 year olds).

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