If we want to solve a problem, we need to understand where it is. To understand the where aspect, we need maps. And to understand the map data better, we need visualization tools. Like with all decision making, it has long been realized that the solutions for almost all development challenges are dependent on visualization of data which is enhanced when data is looked at from a spatial perspective.
The SDGs Dashboard (www.sdgsdashboard.org) is an interesting data-driven initiative in this aspect that supports tracking and monitoring of the United Nation‘s global Sustainable Development Goals. The platform currently uses data from the UN Statistics Division’s (UNSD) SDG Global Database, which was opened in April 2018, in a way that allows users to explore and visualize data to analyze progress.
Created by iTech Mission (iTM), a New Delhi-headquartered social enterprise, the SDGs Dashboard is a fully customizable Cloud-based open source platform that seeks to enable governments, policymakers, researchers, academicians, anthropologists and others interested in tracking the sustainable development goals to perform easy analysis via innovative visualizations and tools for exploring data from global data sources. Which is good because to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is imperative that policymakers are introduced to the value of dynamic visualizations created by the integration of data sources.
“One of the most impactful ways to disseminate data is through visualizations. If we understand the data better, we can take better decisions,” says Arun Kapuria, CEO, iTech Mission. “Our SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) Interactive Dashboard is a data-driven initiative that supports tracking and monitoring of the United Nation’s global goals. The platform has the capability to link national statistical office (NSO) data and government databases. The tool also allows to capture citizens data on what the citizens want, we feel that this integrated solution can easily adapted at regional and national level to monitor and track progress on SDGs.”
Stressing that iTM is committed to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Kapuria adds that it was a purely voluntary initiative and we have received a lot of positive feedback on this.
Once you open the dashboard, the UNSD SDG Global Database data is presented in an interactive way — it displays a given target and its indicators, and provides information on the data value, unit and trends. However, users have the option to customize it to adapt it to any country at sub-national levels to monitor, analyse and align the efforts towards the SDGs. It is also possible to link to individual government databases and national statistics office data systems, while the interactive tools enable users to visualize the data in thematic maps, graphs, bubble or rank charts, tree maps or tables, among other outputs.
The dashboard even allows online campaigns to collect real-time citizen data. Users can use the “Citizens Vote” tool to identify the six issues out of the 17 goals that are most important to them. This enables them to compare their priorities compare with others, and view priorities around the world. Votes are recorded with the user’s gender, age, education level and location. Users can request to be notified when any data is updated.
Explaining why the platform is open source, Kapuria adds that iTM strongly believes in Open Source technologies as it helps the platform to evolve and be iterated upon with ease. “Moreover, we foresee governments adapting the tool to their country settings. Governments today seek applications done in open-source to take full ownership and not be dependent only on the original developer for maintenance, support and enhancements when required.”