UNICEF is the world’s leading source of data on children used by over 1 million people globally
For the past 20 years, UNICEF has led global efforts to generate, analyse and share data for children.
Over the past 20 years, UNICEF has supported governments to generate, analyse and use many different forms of data, from longstanding and statistically robust household survey programmes to government administrative data and new forms of community feedback mechanisms. All of these data are within the scope of UNICEF’s Data for Children Strategic Framework, which provides guidance to countries on investing in data demand, supply and use.
UNICEF has also worked extensively on the development of indicators for national and international development goals and targets related to the well-being of children and women. These successful efforts include establishing baselines and monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals as well as their precursor, the Millennium Development Goals, the World Fit for Children Declaration and Plan of Action, the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS and the African Summit on Malaria.
Placing children at the centre of the new development agenda – the Sustainable Development Goals
UNICEF is committed to supporting Member States’ data collection and analysis for children in the SDG era. The organisation has established extensive global databases and developed and tested new indicators, methods and standards to monitor progress for every child. In addition to the 17 global SDG indicators for which UNICEF is custodian or co-custodian, UNICEF supports the collection and reporting of a wide range of other child-related indicators relevant for monitoring progress at national, regional and global levels.
Many of the measurement techniques developed by UNICEF and its partners during the MDG period have also been integrated within the SDG global indicator framework, placing children firmly at the centre of the new development agenda.
The Data and Analytics team has 4 units:
UNICEF supports countries’ collection of data related to children and women through Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), an international household survey programme. Since its inception in the mid-1990s, five rounds of MICS have been completed and a sixth is now under way. Over 320 surveys have been implemented in more than 116 low- and middle-income countries. Each round of surveys builds upon the last and offers new indicators to monitor trends and current priorities.
The MICS programme is designed to collect statistically sound, internationally comparable data on more than 100 indicators used by countries to assess the situation of children and women in the areas of education, health, gender equality, rights and protection. Firmly embedded in the statistical plans of many governments, it also provides data required to monitor progress towards national and international goals and commitments aimed at promoting the welfare of children.
With the largest coverage of SDG indicators among all survey programmes, the MICS programme built a reputation as a leader in new methodologies of data collection and new technologies. It has pioneered the development and implementation of new measurement tools in several areas, and is currently developing a module to address the information gap on populations after an emergency.
As part of the MICS global programme, UNICEF provides technical support and training through a series of regional workshops covering questionnaire content, sampling and survey implementation, data processing, data quality and analysis, report writing, data archiving and dissemination and further analysis.
Data Analysis and Innovation
UNICEF maintains a series of global databases for tracking the situation of children and women globally. The databases include only statistically sound and nationally representative data from household surveys and other sources. They are updated annually through a process that draws on a wealth of data maintained by UNICEF’s network of 140 country offices.
Developing new methodologies
UNICEF plays a leadership role in several inter-agency monitoring groups on specific topics. Together with its inter-agency partners, UNICEF helps devise new methodologies, indicators and monitoring tools, build statistical capacity at the country level, develop joint estimates, and harmonise monitoring work across partners. UNICEF has also led the development of new indicators and methodologies for gathering relevant data on a number of priority issues, including education, child labour, child disability, child mortality, maternal mortality, water and sanitation, low birthweight, antenatal care, pneumonia, malaria, iodine deficiency disorder, female genital mutilation/cutting and adolescents.
Analysing data for evidence-based programming
UNICEF’s work in data analysis highlights trends and emphasises patterns found within the data. It also suggests how these data can be used strategically to inform programmatic efforts. Where possible, data are disaggregated by gender, age, residence, household income, education, and other key social and demographic variables to help uncover possible risk factors and inequities. UNICEF also promotes the advancement of research through the development of joint projects and collaboration with academic institutions and other agencies working at the national and international level.
Building capacity and supporting countries on promoting the demand for and use of data
UNICEF’s MICS programme provides in-country technical assistance and leadership to local researchers and organizations, thereby contributing to the improvement of national monitoring systems for children and women. UNICEF also conducts regional workshops on specialised topics in conjunction with government counterparts to enhance their capacity to understand, interpret, analyse, disseminate and use statistics.
Data Architecture and Communication
The Data Architecture and Communication team builds data platforms and works towards increasing the reach and use of data through data driven communication products.
To facilitate the use of data to glean insights, drive evidence-based change and ultimately create value for children, UNICEF has been producing a suite of interactive digital maps and graphs featuring the latest data on children across programmatic areas.
Statistical profiles of individual countries present data on key child-related indicators and facilitate data access at the country level for government institutions, their development partners and the general public.
UNICEF aims to provide a modern data warehouse and data production architecture covering work in robust data (outcome and impact data). This includes streamlining the work of compiling and analysing data but also making data more accessible through interoperability and by providing modern and flexible data visualization.
Data for Action
When the right data are in the right hands at the right time, decisions can be better informed, more equitable, and more likely to protect children’s rights. The Data for Action team is working to generate a profound cultural shift towards this vision. Real, lasting organizational change happens by movement, not mandate and the Data for Action team leads by teaching, inspiring and empowering UNICEF staff around the world to use data to better reach and improve the lives of children. It is institutionalizing the Data for Children Strategic Framework, responding to frequently found challenges in putting data to use, raising the skills floor on data work in the organization, and developing a science of delivery for administrative and humanitarian data efforts. For some recent examples of UNICEF offices putting data into action, you can read more here.