Citizen-Generated Data Can Help to Leave No One Behind

Whilst we know data can change lives there are still huge gaps and many countries are struggling to obtain relevant, timely and granular data on the issues which matter most to them.

Citizen-Generated Data (CGD), that is data which people or their organizations produce to directly monitor, demand or drive change on issues that affect them, has huge potential to fill these data gaps. It has the potential to reach the most marginalised populations, fill data gaps on sensitive areas, strengthen relationship between users and producers, and increase trust in official statistics.

The UN Statistical Commission convened in March 2022 recognised the value of CGD in filing data gaps. Participants at a side event of last year’s High-Level Political Forum and Expert Dialogue on CGD highlighted use cases for CGD. Findings from an ESCAP working paper also identifies CGD as a potential non-traditional data source to produce inclusive official statistics.

CGD can fill data gaps in official reporting

For official reporting to meet development needs, data from diverse sources are required. CGD increases data availability, particularly on marginalized people, who may often be left out of traditional surveys and censuses. This information is key for policymaking and improving relationships between data providers and local governments.

National Statistics Offices (NSOs) are experimenting with CGD to enhance official statistics. The Philippines has identified multiple indicators under 12 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) suitable for CGD application. At a recent expert dialogue co-hosted by ESCAP and UNSD with the Leaving No One Behind (LNOB) Partnership, a speaker from Viet Nam’s Ministry of Planning and Industry acknowledged that Viet Nam’s National Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda highlighted CGD’s role in informing SDG reports and Voluntary National Reviews (VNR). Similarly, Nepal’s Central Bureau of Statistics representative observed that the CGD can potentially complement official statistics.

Standardised guidelines and data partnerships can pave the way for an extensive use of CGD

NSOs’ perception towards CGD is improving but they are still concerned about data quality and methodological coherence. In the Philippines case study, civil society organizations adopt different CGD approaches creating concerns for data consistency. Standardized guidelines and data partnerships could provide potential solutions to this challenge.

Ongoing CGD initiatives at national and global levels

Governments are partnering with the civil society to implement CGD at different scales. The Government of Nepal worked with LNOB Nepal for their second VNR 2020 while the Government of Viet Nam adopted 80 per cent of LNOB Viet Nam’s recommendations in Viet Nam’s 2020 national report on SDG implementation. The LNOB alliance partnered with local governments to facilitate CGD data collection from over 25 marginalised communities in India and used CGD to evaluate service accessibility to street dwellers in Bangladesh.

UNSD and the LNOB coalitions are developing a global quality assurance toolkit for CGD producers, built on national level experiences. UNSD and ESCAP hosted a CGD-focused workshop last November to discuss a contextual framework for CGD usage in SDG process and beyond. This has been outlined in the UN Secretary General’s report and will be further deliberated by the UN Statistical Commission in 2023.

CGD has great potential to complement traditional data collection methods. Sufficient resources, capable and committed teams, and support from heads of civil society organizations, international organizations and governments are crucial for wider CGD application to ensure inclusive data collection and leave no one behind. By partnering with civil society organizations, governments can fill critical data gaps in official statistics using CGD.

A version of this article was first published on the UN ESCAP website.