Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2020 – World Bank

Country/area: United States

Organisation: The World Bank

Organisation size: Big

Cover letter:

The World Bank is an international development organization with a twin mission to end poverty and promote shared prosperity in a sustainable way. The Development Data Group is part of the World Bank and focuses on improving the quality, accessibility and availability of development data. To achieve this goal, it also plays a key role in the monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework was adopted in 2015 by the United Nations and its members and established 17 development goals to be achieved by 2030. To monitor these SDGs, 169 targets and more than 230 indicators were developed. The World Bank is a custodian or co-custodian for indicators in areas including poverty, gender equality, social protection, remittances, among other and works closely with the United Nations, partner agencies, and countries around the world to monitor progress towards the goals.

As an observer of the SDG agenda, the team also takes keen interest in creating awareness about the SDGs and seeks to incentivize action through its work on data literacy programs and statistical capacity building.

In an effort to educate audiences on the trends and measurements of the SDGs, the Data Group and the team have produced the Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals since 2017. Each edition of the Atlas has been unique and has taken a different approach. The 2017 Atlas focused on educating its audience about the key ways in which SDGs are measured. The 2018 edition was an open data and open code publication – the first of its kind at the World Bank.

The latest edition, and our current submission, focuses on integrating storytelling and data visualization on an interactive platform. The publication was prepared by a team led by Ana Florina Pirlea, Divyanshi Wadhwa, and Andrew Whitby, with editorial guidance from Matthew Welch under the management of Umar Serajuddin and the overall direction of Haishan Fu. Data visualizations were produced by Maarten Lambrechts, Yaryna Serkez, Jan Willem Tulp, and Elbert Wang.

Description of portfolio:

The Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2020 presents interactive storytelling and data visualizations about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Atlas consists of 17 stories, each focused on a different goal. The stories highlight trends for selected targets within each goal and explain how some SDGs are measured. Where data is available, they also show the emerging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the goals.

The 2020 edition of the Atlas is the third in this series. Each edition has aimed at bringing awareness to a wide audience about the progress made towards achieving the SDGs, how they’re measured, and how countries compare. The previous two editions, which were conceptualized as print publications, also used visualizations to communicate stories and data. For the first time, the latest edition – our submission – is an entirely web publication and uses the online platform to integrate storytelling and data visualizations through an interactive approach.

This project was envisioned before the pandemic and therefore our biggest challenge was showing the impact of COVID-19 on progress towards the sustainable development goals. For some chapters this involved changing the story mid-way through the project to focus on a different, more timely, topic and locating the latest research and estimates, to the extent available.

Development data is rarely real-time. In fact, most often the data presented has a lag of at least one year. This is usually acceptable since changes in development indicators such as poverty rate, maternal mortality, PM2.5 levels, or access to infrastructure including roads or electricity over a period of one year are usually not large. However, in the event of a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, where all countries were deeply impacted, the data at hand was not always meaningful.

To address this, we had to be creative. For some indicators such as poverty rate and learning outcomes, the World Bank produced new forecasts. In other cases, there was information based on rapidly deployed phone surveys. But very recent data for many of the targets was hard to find. We also used examples of past crises that could inform the current situation, as well as anecdotal evidence to support and caveat that data we displayed.

With the Atlas we aim to reach out to a wide audience including students, journalists, policymakers, academics, as well as specialists and all those interested in development and wishing to learn more about some of the biggest challenges confronting the world. This way we wish to increase data literacy and to spur both dialogue and action towards meeting the Goals. Since its release on November 16, 2020 the website has been viewed by nearly 50,000 unique visitors and has amassed a total of 137,000 page views. Vey soon after its launch, the Atlas was featured on the United Nations home page.

The Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2020 was produced by the Development Economics Data Group (DECDG) of the World Bank, in collaboration with various units across the World Bank. The Atlas draws from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators database, as well as from a wide variety of relevant data sources from scientists and other researchers worldwide.

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