In 2015, the United Nations gathered governments, civil society groups and international NGOs from around the world to decide on global development priorities for the next 15 years. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) address major global issues of justice, human rights, social inclusion, prosperity and the environment.

This is a critical time for country governments, donors, business, NGOs, academia and the open data community to consider how open data can be applied to achieve development targets.

While open data can be used to benefit many areas, this report identifies three where it could have a significant impact in the next development agenda and beyond.

Open data can: i) more effectively target aid money and improve development programmes, ii) track development progress and prevent corruption, and iii) contribute to innovation, job creation and economic growth.

To achieve these aims, the development community must address many challenges, including: a weak enabling environment for open data publishing; poor data quality; a mismatch between the demand for open data and the supply of appropriate datasets; a ‘digital divide’ between rich and poor, affecting both the supply and use of data; and a general lack of quantifiable data and metrics.

With these challenges in mind, the report sets out ways that governments, donors and (international) NGOs – with the support of researchers, civil society and industry – can apply open data to help make the SDGs a reality:

  1. Reach global consensus around principles and standards, namely being ‘open by default’, using the Open Government Partnership’s Open Data Working Group as a global forum for discussion.
  2. Embed open data into funding agreements, ensuring that relevant, high-quality data is collected to report against the SDGs. Funders should mandate that data relating to performance of services, and data produced as a result of funded activity, be released as open data.
  3. Build a global partnership for sustainable open data, so that groups across the public and private sectors can work together to build sustainable supply and demand for data in the developing world.