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Monitoring Sustainable Development Goals in India: Availability and Openness of Data (Part I)

Posted by Kiran AB at Feb 22, 2016 06:05 AM |
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an internationally agreed upon set of developmental targets to be achieved by 2030. There are 17 SDGs with 169 targets, and each target is mapped to one or more indicators as a measure of evaluation. In this and the next blog post, Kiran AB is documenting the availability and openness of data sets in India that are relevant for monitoring the targets under the SDGs. This post offers the findings for the first 7 Goals, while the next post will cover the last 10.


The second part of the post can be accessed here.

Monitoring Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an internationally agreed upon set of developmental targets to be achieved by 2030. These are universal goals and targets which involve the entire world, developed and developing countries alike. They aim at integrating and balancing the three dimensions of the sustainable development – economic development, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability. There are 17 SDGs with 169 targets, and each target is mapped to one or more indicators as a measure of evaluation, covering a broad range of sustainable development issues [1].

To initiate the visioning process for the SDGs, the United Nations established a High Level Panel in the year 2012, comprising of 27 members. The notion of "data revolution for sustainable development" has been one of the most remarkable categories of imagination and operational requirement to emerge from the final report of this High Level Panel. It identified a significant need for massive restructuring of infrastructures for generating global, reliable, comparable, and timely data. The Independent Expert Advisory Group (IEAG) on "data revolution for sustainable development" has also raised the need for opening up development data. It proposes that open data must be considered as an instrument of ensuring transparency and accountability of the government [2]. Further, in a recent post from the World Economic Forum meeting, Stephen Walker and Jose Alonso have noted that "Not only will governments that embrace open data improve their public accountability and efficiency, they will also reap the social and economic benefits of opening up data for citizens" [3]. Opening up of government data is expected to transform the relationship between the government and the various stakeholders.

Currently the data is used by the governmental institutions for self-monitoring and making only a limited data available for public access and usage. But SDGs are not only for the government to monitor and realise, the responsibility lies with various other actors as well.

Open data has a major role to play in transforming the vision of the SDGs into reality, by enabling the informed participation of multiple actors – private companies, non-government organisations, academic and research institutes, civic activists, etc. To plan, monitor, and actualise the path being traversed by a country, open data becomes essential. Also to facilitate public participation in the governance.

In this and the next blog post, I am documenting the availability and openness of data sets in India, which are relevant for the indicators identified for monitoring of targets under the 17 SDGs. This post offers the findings for the first 7 Goals, while the next post will cover the last 10. Along with questions of availability and openness, I have also documented the technical format of the available data, the level of granularity, and also the frequency of its collection, when applicable. The chart below describe the overall situation of availability and openness of data for monitoring SDGs in India.



Goal #01: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

The data is available for most of the indicators either directly or need to be derived, however, data doesn't exist for one of the indicators.

The data exists at the national level and at the state level or both, but data availability at the district/city level would give a better picture. Though NSSO sample survey data includes representative data at the state/UT level, such data is often not made freely accessible. Not all data which have been collected, i.e., from agencies like NSSO, National Family Health Survey, etc., are open in the public domain.

Also, the frequency of data collected for most of the indicators are either decennial or quinquennial, rather an annual survey would facilitate better/close monitoring. Health is an important measure associated with poverty, but the data is decennially collected. There is a need for regular data updation, while considering those data which are supposed to be collected annually.

In this context, to derive certain indicators, say Indicator 1.3.1., there is a cross agency dependency on data, and lacks disaggregation of data. The disaggregation is a key to measure inequality, especially incidences like poverty. So to monitor poverty we need to identify the different strata of poverty and policy can be formulated accordingly.

Data Not Available:

  • Indicator 1.3.1. Percentage of population covered by social protection floors /systems disaggregated by sex, and distinguishing children, unemployed, old age, people with disabilities, pregnant women/new-borns, work injury victims, poor and vulnerable


Goal #02: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Indicators and the data corresponding to them reflects two things, what has been done and what has to be done. The data for fifteen indicators mapped to the targets in goal 2 are available for thirteen of the indicators. The data which are available are likely to match the indicator directly or the data has to be derived for most of the indicators. And for the remaining two indicators the data is not available.

For most of the indicators that have to be derived, there is a strong dependency on the dataset from NSSO sample survey for arriving at the requirement. This dependency comes at a cost, as NSSO sample data are not freely available in the public domain, thus making the overall monitoring dependent on closed data. There is a cross agency reliance on data, for arriving at the indicator, and the data on public platform are not up to date.

Also, the data for majority of the indicators are measured at the national as well as state level, but a goal like ending hunger – providing food security, would definitely require data in the order of district/village level. Though data is available for the Indicator 2.2.1: Prevalence of stunting (height for age <-2 SD from the median of the WHO Child Growth Standards) among children under five years of age, but, the data is from eight states only and the national data is derived from it, too small sample size to extrapolate as the nation's data.

On the frequency of data collection, Indicator 2.c.1: Indicator of (food) Price Anomalies (IPA), are collected monthly and some of the data are quinquennial or decennial. However, most of them are annually collected, enabling better accountability and close monitoring of the goals and to frame actionable policy steps.

Data Not Available:

  • Indicator 2.5.1: Ex Situ Crop Collections Enrichment index
  • b. Indicator 2.5.2: Percentage of local crops and breeds and their wild relatives, classified as being at risk, not-at-risk or unknown level of risk of extinction


Goal #03: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Data is available for all the twenty-five indicators corresponding to the thirteen targets set to measure goal 3 on health and well-being. Some of the data are direct to the indicator, while some have to be derived from various data set to arrive at the indicator.

Data is open and accessible freely in the public domain for all the indicators, most of the data are from World Health Organisation (WHO) database. However, for finer tunings and up to date data there is dependency on National Family Health Survey (NFHS) which is collected decennially.

The WHO data lacks updation and ones which are available are pertaining to an year, thus making the analysis of the annual trend difficult. While the frequency of data collected for most of the data are annual.

The dataset available are at the national and state level, and two of the data set is measured in the order of cities. Most of the WHO dataset provides data at the national level, whereas NFHS, District Family Health Surveys and other agencies provide data at the lowest order, but such dataset are not freely accessible on the public domain. The updated data on health are not made available freely accessible in the public domain which are derived through health surveys.


Goal #04: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Education in India is a fundamental right of every citizen, therefore achieving inclusive, equitable and quality education for all becomes necessary. Said this, to monitor goal 4, data is available for nine indicators out of eleven indicators, and for the remaining two indicators, the data is not accessible or in public domain for free access, and for the sub-part of the indicator on proficiency level. Though data exists for all the indicators, however, for most of the indicators we need to derive from multiple sources. Data does not exist for subparts like psychosocial wellbeing, in the Indicator 4.2.1 and proficiency in functional literacy and numeracy skills as in the Indicator 4.6.1.

The data are collected annually for seven indicators and for the two indicators Indicator 4.3.1 and Indicator 4.6.1, which relies on NFHS and Census data respectively, the data is collected decennially. Also, for some of the indicators the data availability is restricted to particular years or are not up to date.

The data which exists are collected at the national and state level for some of them and for some data set the data exists at the national level only, whereas for the Indicator 4.6.1, the data set is of the order of city. And the disaggregation issue prevails here as well, so to sort data based on the given parameter one has to consult NSSO sample survey or derive from the existing data.

Data Not Available:

  • Indicator 4.7.1: Percentage of 15-year old students enrolled in secondary school demonstrating at least a fixed level of knowledge across a selection of topics in environmental science and geo science. The exact choice/range of topics will depend on the survey or assessment in which the indicator is collected. Disaggregation: sex and location
  • Indicator 4.a.1: Percentage of schools with access to (i) electricity; (ii) Internet for pedagogical purposes; (iii) computers for pedagogical purposes; (iv) adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities; (v) single-sex basic sanitation facilities; (vi) basic hand washing facilities


Goal #05: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Gender as a social construct has been deprived of equality and equity, therefore, achieving equality and empowering women and girls lays down the path for an inclusive development. In this direction, to monitor the goal 5, data is available for eleven indicators and do not exist for three indicators out of fourteen indicators. However, the Indicator 5.3.2, is not relevant as India does not acknowledge FGM/C. Also, for most of the indicators, the data need to be derived from the given dataset.

For most of the data, the data is collected at the National or state level. Whereas for the Indicator 5.a.1, the data is available at the district/tehasil level and it is based on Agricultural census of India, carried out once in five years.

The collection of data is annual in most cases, decennial in the cases of NFHS data, quinquennial with regard to data on land ownership and rights based on gender. Also, in cases of proportion of women in parliament or number of legal framework – domestic/international, the frequency cannot be determined as its subject to change.

Regarding openness, though data exists, the data is not available to access freely. These data are either from NSSO sample survey and NFHS. For most of the indicators the data exists in general without disaggregation, but, as the goal demands sex based disaggregation, we need to derive from the existing data.

Data Not Available:

  • Indicator 5.3.2: Percentage of girls and women aged 15-49 who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), by age group (for relevant countries only)
  • Indicator 5.6.2. Number of countries with laws and regulations that guarantee women aged 15-49 access to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education
  • Indicator 5.c.1: Percentage of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment


Goal #06: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Water is a life giving source, but ensuring water and sanitation in a sustainable way is a challenge indeed. Data is available for all the ten indicators to monitor the goal 6. While for most of the indicators the data has to be derived from the given data set or from other data set. The data set available are in absolute numbers, need to modify as per the indicators.

The data is collected annually for most of the indicators, however, for the indicators, Indicator 6.3.2: Percentage of water bodies with good ambient water quality; Indicator 6.4.1: Percentage change in water use efficiency over time, the data pertains to the specific year, without a time series.

Three of the data are measured at the state level, one at the district level – Indicator 6.2.1, and another at the level of cities – Indicator 6.3.1. For most of the indicators, the data are from international agencies like WHO, UNEP, FAO, etc.

The data for four of the indicators are not freely accessible on the public domain, though data exists. Also, for the Indicator 6.a.1, the available data is not specific to it, but gives an overview. Overall, for the close monitoring of the goal 6, the granularity of the data should be at the district/block level, and must be freely accessible.


Goal #07: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Energy is considered one of the basic needs of human life, therefore, providing energy which is reliable and affordable has to ensure sustainability and the kind of energy being produced. The data exists for five of the indicators out of six indicators, however, the data does not exist for one of the indicators. The data for two of the indicators – Indicator 7.2.1, Indicator 7.3.1, have to be derived from the given data set.

For most of the data, the data is collected annually and the data is collected at the national level. However, as to the data availability for the Indicator 7.2.1, the data is available at the state level.

To arrive at the required indicator, there is a dependency over other dataset. Though most of the data are available, for three of the indicators – Indicator 7.2.1: Renewable energy share in the total final energy consumption (%); Indicator 7.3.1. Energy intensity (%) measured in terms of primary energy and GDP; Indicator 7.a.1: Mobilized amount of USD per year starting in 2020 accountable towards the US 100 billion commitment, the data is not freely accessible.

Data Not Available:

  • Indicator 7.b.1. Ratio of value added to net domestic energy use, by industry



[1] "Indicators and a Monitoring Framework for the Sustainable Development Goals." Sustainable Development Solutions Network. March 20, 2015. Accessed February 16, 2016.

[2] "A World That Counts - Mobilising the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development." Report. Independent Expert Advisory Group Secretariat, 2014. Accessed February 19, 2016.

[3] Walker, Stephen, and Jose M. Alonso. "Data Will Only Get Us so Far. We Need It to Be Open." World Economic Forum. January 29, 2016. Accessed February 16, 2016.



Kiran A B, is a student of Master of Public Policy (MPP) at the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru. Kiran has an undergraduate degree in electronics and communications engineering, and he has three years full-time work experience as a software engineer, working in different technological platforms. His research interest includes interdisciplinary linkages between policy, law and technology.