Data, as the basis for evidence-based decision-making and accountability, are a crucial pillar of the post-2015 development agenda. UN Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015
This September the UN General Assembly adopted The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda. The 17 goals include providing universal access to safe water by 2030 (Goal #6). Like so many people, I want to realize universal access to safe water – but it is an immense challenge. How exactly are we going to achieve it?
With any sufficiently complex challenge there is no panacea—it will require a myriad of ideas and solutions, and the work of countless amazing people and institutions. However, at the heart of the solutions will be the use of accurate data.
Over the last 15 years, the number of people without access to safe water was halved during the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). From the successes and failures of programs during the MDGs the disaster relief and aid organizations learned many lessons. A principle lesson is the importance of collecting accurate data on what is, and what is not, working. Without it, you can’t identify solutions to promote.
The UN report from 2015, the final year to achieve the MDGs, is unequivocal that an essential lesson is the need to collect accurate data:
The MDG monitoring experience has clearly demonstrated that effective use of data can help to galvanize development efforts, implement successful targeted interventions, track performance and improve accountability. Thus sustainable development demands a data revolution to improve the availability, quality, timeliness and disaggregation of data to support the implementation of the new development agenda at all levels. 2015 MDG Report (p. 10)
Funders and thought leaders in global health agree. Bill Gates, a champion of global health, and especially access to safe water, stated in his blog that the MDGs “focused the world’s attention on disease and poverty, and by using data to measure progress, we could see which countries were succeeding and which were falling behind.”
At PotaVida, we make a strong assertion about data: we believe that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. We are fueled by our drive to collect accurate data, and believe accurate data are a fundamental component of achieving any large goal. Accurate data enables accurate analysis, and informs changes to optimize outcomes. Without accurate measures of success, aid interventions will replicate invisible failures.
On a more granular level, the data from our Smart Solar Purifiers allows us to see which communities, and even which households, are getting clean water and which aren’t – and provides an opportunity to address any gaps. We welcome the challenge of the SDGs, and the opportunity to contribute accurate, real-time data, to help achieve global health outcomes.