Transforming data to build better lives

Together with Data Act Lab, the Foundation is developing a cutting-edge data platform that enables countries to provide insight and transparency around Agenda 2030 implementation.


To build a better future one needs to understand where change is needed. Data can be the tool that provides this knowledge and in turn enables evidence-based action, but to do so it needs to be both approachable and instructive.

Building on this concept the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation is now, in partnership with Data Act Lab, developing a groundbreaking online platform called Goal Tracker. It will allow an unlimited number of countries to use state of the art data visualisation and data storytelling techniques to communicate their implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It is necessary to get an understanding of the change that is happening, that which is planned and that which is simply not happening,” explained Henrik Hammargren, Executive Director of the Foundation, at a recent event on the side-lines of the forty-seventh session of the United Nations Statistical Commission in New York. Reporting on the progress of the SDGs has from the beginning been viewed as a fundamental part of ensuring their success.

Agenda 2030 and accountability

The 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, also referred to as the Global Goals, which came into effect on 1 January 2016, will shape sustainable development policy globally through 2030. Governments have committed to not only pursuing the goals but also providing systematic follow-up of the 17 goals and 169 associated targets, which will be no easy feat but will help provide accountability to citizens at the national, regional and global levels.

The Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators have developed a global SDG indicator framework, which serves as the basis for review and implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The UN Statistics Division has also presented Principles of SDG Indicator Reporting and Dissemination Platforms, which stress that these platforms must be centred around collaboration, accessibility, user-friendly design, open data, and national ownership.

National ownership is in fact at the core of the Agenda and a number of countries have aligned – or are in the process of aligning – their national policies with the Global Goals. National review mechanisms will as such be important tools in tracking and communicating progress not only on the Global Goals but also national development priorities.

Colombia leading the way

During the past two years, the Colombian government has embarked on an ambitious and pioneering road to set up structures for the implementation of the SDGs. The SDG framework has been aligned with other policy commitments, such as the National Development Plan and the Colombian Peace Accords, national indicators and targets have been set and data to track performance have been assessed.

As part of the process, a digital platform to track and communicate the implementation of the SDGs in the country has been developed in collaboration with Data Act Lab. Funded by the Swedish Government, the project is led by Colombia’s National Department of Planning (DNP) and National Statistics Office (DANE).

We see the SDGs as a long term regulatory framework and the development of this data explorer is an important part of our SDG implementation,” explained Adriana Castro from DNP. Launched this month, the platform enables users to view different data visualisations by goal, geography, gender and age, as well as download the accompanying data. It is an impressive and brave move by the Government of Colombia who is not only providing policymakers and citizens with rich insight into their development data but also transparency around their  implementation of Agenda 2030.

Broadening access to more countries

Based on the lessons learnt and the technology developed from the cooperation with Colombia, Data Act Lab, together with the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, is currently developing the Goal Tracker platform. Designed to be country-led and user-friendly, the online platform is open-access and can be tailored to any specific country, translating complex data on development priorities into innovative and accessible information.

It means countries don’t need to start from scratch and build a national SDG reporting and communications platform from the ground up,” said Alexandra Silfverstolpe, Founder of Data Act Lab. Indeed, developing effective, yet user-friendly, data-driven communication is hard and countries have different data maturity, but this platform allows partner countries to quickly hit the ground running.

The work doesn’t stop there though. “It is what do we do afterwards with the platform, how we connect with end users that is crucial,” explained Ms. Silfverstolpe. For it is the citizens, journalists, academia and policymakers who use the platform that can turn the data into action and real change. The platform simply hands them the right tools.