A reliability review on development data

Goals and targets, but can we be sure we’ll know if they are met?

2015 was an important year. In it, the international community decided on a new set of goals and targets for development to 2030. If these are as powerful as the goals set at the millenium – the millenium development goals – they could play a huge role in reducing and perhaps even eliminating some forms of human suffering.

This project reviewed the indicators used to measure progress against the millenium development goals. It set out to understand how reliable these metrics are and to learn lessons which can be applied to indicators for the new goals.


The review identified several shocking facts which illustrate the unreliability of existing statistics. It showed that gaps in the availability and quality of data collection matter. They bring a frightening degree of uncertainty to our knowledge on even the most basic issues in human development.

ODI’s report, which was launched at the Cartagena data festival in April 2015, used these facts to show the need for a revolution in data collection, handling and management in developing countries and in international development organisations.

Press Coverage

The work set out to raise awareness of issues around development data and in particular how it could be improved. Central to achieving this was achieving coverage in the press. The report and its contents were reported in The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times, The Kenya Daily Nation, and in influential blogs herehere, and here.


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