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Finance & Innovation

Ending Poverty: time for a data revolution

In our last couple of blogs we’ve looked at the money available to end poverty and where the poorest communities are likely to be in 2030. We’ve seen that there is a potential for all investments – domestic, international, public, private and commercial – to contribute to ending poverty by 2030 and that the way aid is given can affect the impact that it has.

So, with an understanding of who is in poverty, what money is available and how to spend it we’re well on the way to ending poverty by 2030, right? Well not quite. Let’s take a closer look....

What’s behind the numbers?

When people talk about poverty you often hear a series of big numbers – 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty, $128 billion of aid delivered in 2012, $2.1 trillion of international resource flows. Printed in black and white it sounds so clear cut but when we start to look at the details the story becomes a lot more murky. In fact we find:

· Estimates of poverty are unreliable. The collection methods for surveys and the use of different data sources can change the estimates of the numbers of people in poverty by hundreds of millions.

· Current data is out of date. Global poverty estimates still rely on old and patchy data. A quarter of the number of people in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is based on surveys conducted before 2005 (that’s nine years ago!).

· Calculations are built on weak assumptions. Much of what is known about poverty might not stand up to updated price estimates and relies on data from different sources that is sometimes not compatible.

Information is power

This might all sound a bit technical but what does it really mean? Well, as the infographic below shows, the reality is that we have very unclear information on the financial resources available to end poverty. We also have unclear information on who and where the poorest people are. This means that governments find it difficult to use the available resources effectively. Ultimately, it means that those people most in need get left behind.

Time for a data revolution

But it’s not all bad news. New technologies are making it easier for governments, business and civil society to collect data, share information, target resources, provide feedback and measure progress. Information can help to build trust between governments and citizens, allowing people to exercise their rights, hold decision-makers to account, reduce corruption and make more informed choices in their daily lives.

The High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, co-chaired by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the President of Indonesia and the President of Liberia, called for a data revolution for sustainable development, with a new international initiative to improve the quality of statistics and information available to citizens”. With enough political momentum, we can make a giant leap forward in tracking resources, get beyond the big numbers by breaking down the data to a local level, help monitor the effectiveness of investments and empower people in developing countries to demand accountability.

Your part as a global citizen is to put pressure on your government to deliver a data revolution so that we can end poverty by 2030.     

Sign the petition to call on every country to commit to support all efforts to end extreme poverty by 2030. 


by Andrew Palmer, Head of External Relations | Development Intiatives