Rapid advances in technology have dramatically lowered the cost of gathering data. Sensors in space, the sky, the lab, and the field, along with newfound opportunities for crowdsourcing and widespread adoption of the Internet and mobile telephones, are making large amounts of information available to those for whom it was previously out of reach. A small-scale farmer in rural Africa, for example, can now access weather forecasts and market prices at the tap of a screen.
This data revolution offers enormous potential for improving decision-making at every level – from the local farmer to world-spanning development organizations.
It is not enough simply to assume that the data revolution will benefit sustainable development. Ensuring that it does will require recognizing the importance of rigorous analysis in every data-collection effort and the formation of a new generation of decision scientists to work alongside policymakers.