A Matter of Trust

Building Integrity into Data, Statistics and Records to Support the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals
Edited by Anne Thurston
1 December 2020
229 × 152 mm
300 pp
Paperback: 978-1-912250-34-9
PDF: 978-1-912250-35-6

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals initiative has the potential to set the direction for a future world that works for everyone.  Approved by 193 United Nations member countries in September 2016 to help guide global and national development policies in the period to 2030, the 17 goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, but also include new priority areas, such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice.  Assessed against common agreed targets and indicators, the goals should facilitate inter-governmental cooperation and the development of regional and even global development strategies. 

However, each goal presents considerable challenges in terms of collecting and analysing relevant data and producing the statistics needed to measure progress.  Most governments in lower resourced countries simply do not yet have the systems and controls in place to produce high quality, reliable data and statistics, and it is questionable whether the quality and integrity of the available information is adequate to support meaningful decisions and set direction for the future.

There are substantial implications:  where progress cannot be measured accurately because of inadequate or flawed statistics, the result can be misguided decisions, doubts about achievement of the goals and significant wasted resources.  Getting statistics ‘right’ depends upon the quality and integrity of the data used to produce them and on  the quality of the processes for collecting, manipulating and analysing the data.  Without a documentary records as evidence of how the data were gathered and analysed or how statistics were produced and disseminated, it is not  possible to confirm that the statistics are complete, accurate and relevant.   

Various global organisations do recognise the importance of high quality data and statistics for measuring the SDG indicators reliably, but there has been little attention to the role of records in providing the evidence needed to trust the data and statistics. There is, moreover, a lack of awareness that digital information simply will not survive without policies and procedures to manage and preserve it through time.  As a result, digital data, statistics and records are being lost regularly on a large scale, particularly in lower resource countries, where the structures needed to protect and preserve them are not  yet in place.   

This book explores, through a series of case studies, the substantial challenges for assembling reliable data and statistics to address pressing development challenges,  particularly in Africa. Hopefully, by highlighting the enormous potential value of creating and using high quality data, statistics and records as an interconnected resource and describing how this can be achieved, the book will contribute to  defining meaningful and realistic global and national development policies in the critical period to 2030.

Table of contents: 

1. Records as evidence for measuring sustainable development in Africa

Anne Thurston

2. The state of data and statistics in sub-Saharan Africa in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals

Paul Komba and Ngianga-Bakwin Kandala

3. Data, information and records: exploring definitions and relationships

Geoffrey Yeo interviewed by James Lowry

4. The potential – constructive and destructive – of information technology for records management: case studies from India

James Manor

5. Statistical accuracy and reliable records: a case study of mortality statistics in The Gambia

Andrew Griffin

6. Mainstreaming records and data management in sustainable development: lessons from the public and private sectors in Kenya

Justus Wamukoya and Cleophas Ambira

7. Open data and records management – activating public engagement to improve information: case studies from Sierra Leone and Cambodia

Katherine Townsend, Tamba Lamin, Amadu Massally and Pyrou Chung

8. Assuring authenticity in public sector data: a case study of the Kenya Open Data Initiative

James Lowry

9. Preserving the digital evidence base for measuring the Sustainable Development Goals

Adrian Brown

10. Preserving and using digitally encoded information as a foundation for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

David Giaretta

11. Transparency in the 21st century: the role of records in achieving public access to information, protecting fundamental freedoms and monitoring sustainable development

Victoria Lemieux

12. Information management for international development: roles, responsibilities and competencies

Elizabeth Shepherd and Julie McLeod

13. The quality of data, statistics and records used to measure progress towards achieving the SDGs: a fictional situation analysis

John McDonald