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Counting on the World: Building Modern Data for Sustainable Development

Data is not just required for monitoring. Achieving the ambitious SDGs also requires an evidence-based approach to governance. National and local leaders need to utilize data to help inform their planning, decision-making, and program design. They need data on the here and now, on the quality of services, on economic opportunities, and on the wellbeing of their population. But they also need historical data and forward-looking, modeled data to understand where we are coming from, understand trends over time, and help us prepare for the future and the seismic sustainable development challenges it brings with it.

This report lays out the necessary functions of modern statistical systems equipped to support sustainable development. Given the scale of the challenge, it proposes a multi-stakeholder approach in which private companies, academia, multilateral institutions and civil society support governments with the production, cleaning, compilation, dissemination and analysis of data. It identifies the range of actors that should be included and their respective incentives, roles and responsibilities, all coordinated by an independent national statistical office (NSO) and supported by a high-level government appointee focused on data – ‘Chief Data Officer’ (CDO).