Published on Jul 09, 2024

Curated by Shoba Suri

Thirty years ago, at the International Conference on Population Development, the world agreed to put people at the centre of development—inspiring significant progress in women’s access to reproductive care, gender equality, and reduction in maternal death. One often unrecognised hero driving these advancements is data—a subject that has an entire chapter dedicated to it in the ICPD Programme of Action. Since 1994, many initiatives have echoed these recommendations, including the UN Secretary General’s call for a “data revolution,” which would equip countries with the requisite data systems to track and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Improvements in data collection and analysis, as well as technology, have increased the availability of more comprehensive and precise information over the last three decades, enabling societies across the world to measure and achieve goals related to good health and the fulfilment of rights and choices. The UNFPA’s State of World Population 2024 shows that the world’s most marginalised communities have been largely excluded from progress. In an increasingly unpredictable world, reliable, inclusive data are more important than ever—and must be used as a tool to promote progress for all. 

In this essay series, the issues explored are vast and varied. It has highlighted the value of effective data use and governance for ensuring data is collected, managed, and utilised responsibly. It also explored the role of data in informing climate strategies to mitigate environmental impact; the issue of data silences and inequalities underscoring the biases within datasets; the use of health data to tailor interventions; the capture of data for capacity building to empower communities to make informed decisions, and the urgent need for gender-specific data to promote gender equality. Collectively, these themes underscore the transformative potential of data when harnessed effectively and equitably.