It’s an exciting time to be a data lover. As Rachel’s post from last week on post-2015 and the data revolution describes, if the revolution becomes a reality we will have more and better data about what’s happening in developing countries. Even better, that data will increasingly be made available to citizens so they can hold their governments accountable for delivering on promises of development. This data won’t just be a single number for the whole nation. Ideally it will be disaggregated by gender, geography, and socio-economic status so countries can better understand who is receiving services, know who’s benefiting from development, and make sure that no one is left behind. The idea that the post-2015 framework will be universal is also making people think about measurement in new ways. Countries like the United States will be asked to report on their progress towards the sustainable development goals, just like developing countries.

In fifteen years we are going to know so much more about the realities of development than we do now. But these changes will not happen automatically, and we need to know where we are before we can figure out how to get to improvements in the quantity and quality of development data. One effort to map the current data landscape and make recommendations about what’s needed to measure proposed post-2015 targets is the Post-2015 Data Test being implemented by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and The North-South Institute (NSI) in association with Southern Voice and the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR). This work is being supported by the International Development Research Centre’s Think Tank Initiative (which we support), PASGR, and directly by the Hewlett Foundation.

Local think tanks and research institutions in Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Peru, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Turkey, are participating in the study to see what data is available and examine its quality. They will talk with representatives from government, civil society, academia and the media to find out what improvements need to be made in accessibility and transparency of data, as well as the potential for technology-enabled and non-traditional modes of data collection. The teams will be testing the feasibility and relevance of potential ‘zero’ (eliminating extreme poverty) or ‘global minimum standard’ targets (provide free and universal legal identifiers, such as birth registrations). They will be examining the challenges of measuring (and implementing) a universal but country-relevant post-2015 framework for data that covers the following goal areas: Poverty; Employment and Inclusive Growth; Governance and Human Rights; Environmental Sustainability and Disaster Resilience; Global Partnership for Sustainable Development; Energy and Infrastructure; and Education.

IPAR (Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rurale) has already started this process in Senegal. Launches of the Data Test have also been held in Bangladesh by CPD and Canada by NSI as well as other countries. The country teams met in Nairobi at the end of last month to share what they have learned so far.

Country teams will be collecting data through July, and providing updates about their findings– we will be linking to their posts as they come out. Once the teams are done with their research, they will come together to share what they learned and draw lessons that can help inform the selection of the targets for the post-2015 framework. You (and data lovers everywhere) will be hearing a lot from them—in blog posts, In-Progress Notes, via reports and at meetings—over the course of the next year.