Fighting extreme poverty? Fight for Data!

Fighting extreme poverty? Fight for Data!

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Do you remember 2005? Let’s bring you back: Facebook was still restricted to only Harvard students, George W. Bush was inaugurated for his second term, and Pope John Paul II died. Oh right, and Tom Cruise had that embarrassing couch incident on Oprah.

2005 is also the year that a lot data was collected on extreme poverty; the same data that’s still used to estimate at least a quarter of the people in sub-Saharan Africa living in extreme poverty.

The data crisis is a real problem. If we don’t have information that explains the problems we are trying to solve, governments won’t know who to tax, and how to spend that money. Businesses won’t know where to invest and citizens won’t know if governments are doing their job effectively.

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We live in a world where one in three children aged five years or younger have not had their births registered.  They matter so little that they are uncounted. Because they don’t exist officially, they often cannot access basic healthcare, sufficient food, lifesaving antiretroviral medicines, or an education. Some scholars even suggest that possession of a birth certificate is a determining factor in breaking the cycle of poverty.

Photo Credit: PLAN

Photo Credit: PLAN

This makes sense. Children registered at birth are more likely to be immunized. Proof of age enables prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against children, such as child trafficking, sexual offences, and early recruitment into the armed forces, child marriage, and child labor. And for women, proof of marriage enables access to widows’ pensions or broader public services, such as education and health.

These data gaps are shocking. But the tide is turning. In Nigeria, through its Millennium Development Goals Information System project, a few hundred young people equipped with smart phones are rapidly surveying every school, water-point and clinic in the country, no matter how remote the area.

Technical Assistants using their Android phones during the practical on-the-ground data collection exercise at Dobi Primary School, Gwagwalada LGA, and Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria. Photo Credit: Angelique Mahal

Technical Assistants using their Android phones to collect data at Dobi Primary School, Gwagwalada LGA, Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria. Photo Credit: Angelique Mahal

You can see a profile for each school here. More importantly, for the first time the government has a picture of where it needs to invest money, and citizens can see this too.

This is one of many examples of innovation shaping the data landscape, but it is all too rare.

So as world leaders agree on new global development goals, ONE is campaigning hard for new investments in data collection in a way that puts the information in the hands of people.

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In the lead up to July’s UN Financing for Development Summit in Ethiopia we will be pushing governments, businesses and civil society organizations to map the data gaps and start to fill them. If we’re serious about the fight against poverty we need to fight for data.

Help us make sure that data collection is a priority for world leaders as they negotiate the 2015 Global Goals by signing our petition here.

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