An unprecedented interest in data and information for development presents a huge opportunity to improve the quality, availability and usefulness of information. Recent events like the buzz over the World Bank’s new poverty numbers, pilots of exciting and innovative technologies, and a growing awareness of data gaps following the recent call for a ‘data revolution’, have generated attention and enthusiasm for more investment in data and better policy in this area.

But this moment will not last for ever.

Building upon the multitude of conferences, seminars, research projects and new networks that have been launched and taken place over the past year, it’s important to capitalize on this momentum with some actions to set the right course for long term political and financial support.

The ‘data revolution’ has been powered so far by the decentralised, reactive and diverse nature of both the concept itself, and the institutions working on defining what it will mean. It is important that this creativity and energy is maintained, not stifled by any wider initiatives.

However, to take full advantage of this political moment, a minimal level of organisation and strategy can help to mobilise the political involvement and the extra resources that will make this a truly revolutionary moment. These could be deployed in a useful way, which add to, amplify and support existing long term initiatives and processes of capacity building. Or they could be deployed in a less productive way, distracting attention from the long term in favour of eye-catching initiatives which undermine needed long term investments.

Fear of the latter should not prevent those interested in maximising the potential of the data revolution from planning for the former. Rather, a consensus is needed on a few key actions that, combined with the myriad of existing initiatives, can set a pathway to the kind of long term and sustainable improvements that are needed, with national capacity building at their heart. 

This is a complex field and there are a lot of interests and ideas in play. In order to develop such a consensus on what useful, achievable objectives could be for this first phase of the data revolution, we propose to bring together key individuals and institutions for a 2-day workshop to discuss a strategy for the next 2 years of political action and resource investment in the data revolution.

At the end of the workshop, we aim to have an agreed set of actions to pursue collectively and as individual organisations, over the next 2 years, which will ensure that we are using the opportunity of the moment to create necessary long term improvements in data collection and use.


The key objective for the meeting will be to develop consensus on a number of deliverables for the next two years, which will provide a platform for longer term investments and improvements in capacity. These should be chosen with a view to identifying the key things that will help deliver short term results and lock in long term political and financial support to achieve significant improvements in data and data production capacity over the next 15 years.

Suggested questions to address:


  • What improvements in data collection and use would we like to see by 2030?
  • What are the current key bottlenecks preventing these improvements?
  • What level of global cooperation is needed to deliver the resources, political effort and expertise to help deliver the required improvements by 2030, and how should that be organised?
  • How can the political attention to the ‘data revolution’ and the link to post-2015 be best deployed to help build long-term, state-focused capacity?
  • What opportunities and milestones are there over the next 18-24 months that can be used to mobilise actions to capitalize on the political attention and the link to post-2015?
Workshop programme - The data revolution.pdf