#GlobalGoals and the challenge to Measure Progress

shutterstock_773748941111Last week, the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC), at its 47th session, agreed on a global indicator framework for the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This framework is critical to achieving the 17 Goals and 169 Targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that the UN adopted in September 2015. The data that will be produced under this framework will help monitor progress, identify challenges, and guide policy makers. They are therefore an essential part in the ambitious plan to eliminate poverty and hunger, protect the planet, combat inequalities and build peaceful, just and inclusive societies over the next 15 years. The 231 indicators developed by the Member State-led Interagency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) will also provide the basis for an annual UN progress report. The Commission agreed that this framework will be a practical starting point and that the indicators included in the framework will require further technical refinements.

An ambitious indicator framework for an ambitious development agenda

UN-led efforts, involving Member States, the private sector, academia and donors, will have to ensure that high-quality, timely, and reliable data can be produced by countries and collected at the international level. In particular, the framework calls for a significant level of data disaggregation – including by income, sex, age, disability and geographic location – to help ensure that “no one is left behind”. Currently, many of the indicators to track the SDGs cannot be monitored because for many countries data are not comparable, disaggregated, produced regularly or simply not available. To some, the framework seems as ambitious as the SDGs themselves, and the Commission called for efforts to mobilize resources to improve data availability, and to ensure that national statistical capacities are strengthened, in particular in Africa, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing states. ICTs will also play a role since new data sources and new technologies for data collection, including big data, are expected to help produce better data – for better policy making.


Information and communication technologies will play an important role in achieving the SDGs, including by improving efficiency, driving innovation, and providing access to digitally-enabled products and services.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes that “The spread of information and communication technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies”. Several targets make references to ICTs and technology and the indicator framework includes 7 ICT indicators covering 6 targets under Goals 4, 5, 9, and 17.

At the global level, ITU will be responsible for tracking ICT indicators related to ICT skills, mobile phone ownership, mobile population coverage, broadband uptake, and Internet use.

Vanessa Gray

VanessaGray Vanessa Gray is a Senior ICT Analyst in the ICT Data and Statistics Division of the International Telecommunication Union’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. She helps to design and coordinate the Division’s analytical publications, including the Measuring the Information Society report. Ms Gray is the ITU focal point for the Inter-agency and Expert Group (IAEG) on SDG Indicators. Ms Gray holds a Master’s degree in Political Science and Economics from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. 

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