So you want a data revolution? More investment in statistical offices? The use of big data for health analytics? More training for data literacy? Fine! All these elements are crucial. But let’s not limit the revolution to these elements and ignore the politics of data.

Consider this: A country like Germany has a fairly good statistics  It can invest in approaches to make use of big data and to train government officers and NGOs to make better use of data. But this would not be any help for the thousands of homeless people in Germany, who do not appear in any official statistics. Until now there has been no political will to collect data on homelessness at national level - arguably a core issue if the 2030 Agenda is to be implemented in Germany and no one is to be left behind.

So who decides what we count and what is not counted? In the context of the 2030 Agenda this decision has so far been taken by the UN Statistics Commission and by national governments, primarily in the choice of SDG indicators. Take a close look at these indicators and you will see how political this choice is.

For example, the UN Statistics commission has decided to count the number of illegal weapons collected in developing countries, but not the number of weapons exported to fragile states by countries like Sweden, the UK or Germany. Likewise, the UN Commission agreed to measure the tax revenue generated by low-income countries but doesn’t propose an indicator to measure the financial secrecy of European countries encouraging tax evasion.

These examples demonstrate that there is a high risk, that the ambition of the 2030 Agenda is watered down at the monitoring stage and the paradigm shift to global agenda binding all countries gets lost. To avoid this risk, civil society needs to get involved in the politics of indicators and data. And we should not leave SDG monitoring to governments only.

For the last 15 months the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany has been working on a prototype on how such a civil society led monitoring could look like. And we are very proud to launch the English version of this prototype: 2030 Watch, now.

There are five key elements of this tool:

  1. The tool focuses only on high income countries and policy areas where there is need for increased efforts by these countries.
  2. To do this we complement official indicators with unofficial indicators, that are appropriate to measure the SDG targets
  3. We use data from official sources like Eurostat and the OECD and data from civil society organisations and as much as the licences allow, we make the data downloadable.
  4. We collaborate with civil society organisations and research institutes who “adopt” indicators and propose appropriate optimum values to assess the performance of countries. For example the tax justice network is our data partner for the secrecy of financial markets using their own index. The German Association of LGBTI people is data partner for inclusive rights using the Rainbow Europe Index of the European LGBTI association ILGA. And our data partner Unfair Tobacco has adopted the official SDG indicator of the UN Statistics commission which they measure with WHO data.
  5. The tool offers country comparisons across indicators to provide users with an insight into which countries are really champions and in which areas even champions need to make a lot of progress.

2030 Watch is still a prototype which has been developed with scarce resources and a lot of voluntary work. We are well aware of the hick-ups in the tool and in the data and will continue to make improvements. Despite the remaining challenges we feel that 2030 Watch already demonstrates that civil society monitoring is possible.

You can help us to make make 2030 Watch a credible monitoring site to hold high income countries to account for their commitments. You can sponsor our work and donate! Or you can become a data partner and “adopt” an indicator. You can also help us with your feedback or by sharing the tool in your networks. Let’s make this a proper data revolution!