We have recently held an interview with Lucia Kišš, the Head of the Slovak Agency for International Development Cooperation (SAIDC – SlovakAid). SAIDC is a budgetary organization of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic. Its newly devised Strategy for development cooperation is set for five years and the priority countries include Kenya, Moldova and Georgia. The SAIDC, together with their implementing partners are currently running over 50 large grant projects, more than 40 micro-grants and over 30 volunteer and expert projects.
Lucia talked with our Business Development Director Matej Mišík about the use of data for international development and the necessity of the private sector involvement in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Data decisions in international development
“Data is very important for our work. It’s very important in terms of transparency and also accountability to citizens because we are a budgetary organization,” said Lucia, when asked about the extent to which SAIDC´s decisions are informed by data, such as population statistics.
The use of relevant data is a necessity for effective, efficient and transparent aid distribution.
For instance, data is used for monitoring and evaluation, which subsequently informs policy making and helps to highlight the results and added value of SlovakAid projects. This is not always an easy task due to budgetary constraints. Furthermore, SAIDC currently does not have an analytical or monitoring and evaluation (M&E) unit.
There is a huge potential of data-rich industries, such as telcos or banks, in development. As it turns out, there is no such partnership between the private sector and the SAIDC at the state level in Slovakia. However, it is worth noting that private sector involvement in development works quite effectively abroad. Lucia gave an example of the telcos´ early warning system: “we have seen it in the earthquake in Pakistan, where they used SMS and mobile providers to warn people that there was an earthquake happening.”
Lucia and Matej both agreed there is a lack of incentives for corporations to be active in the development sector due to unclear profits and restrictive regulations limiting their potential. The head of SlovakAid mentioned a number of initiatives, which simplify the process of participation. One of them is called Big Data for Social Good, which uses mobile operators´ capacities to help manage humanitarian crises. This is one of the good causes that can inspire us all.
The conversation has naturally moved towards SDGs.“It’s important to mention that [SDGs] are the responsibility of everyone. So not just developed countries, also the least developed countries, also middle-income countries. And they are not just the responsibilities of the states, but everybody has to be involved.”
“For me, you cannot say what is the most important SDG. There’s 17 SDGs and they are all interlinked.” For example, poverty reduction cannot be achieved without education and gender equality. In order to assess how well we are doing in achieving the SDGs, we have to monitor the indicators and take advantage of using big data. Data can be used to better target development interventions as they have the potential to locate weak points and underfunded areas that might have not been visible before. Therefore, using data leads to evidence-based policy-making with a higher chance of achieving the SDGs.
We are currently at the point when we could use a mid-term evaluation of the SDGs to assess how we are doing, in order to adjust our response and prioritize accordingly. Effective cooperation among the government, academia, civil society organizations and private sector is essential in this process.
Yet, corporations are difficult to motivate outside of revenue or business line, so how can we motivate corporations to play a bigger role? The private sector needs to be involved in building strategies for economic growth from the beginning. This will give them a share of the cake and motivate them to take part, as there is not enough money to achieve the SDGs without the help of the private sector. So, the world needs private investment to help finance and scale up meaningful projects, which have the potential to play well with increasingly environmentally conscious consumers and help them achieve their corporate social responsibility activities.
The European Commission can serve as a source of inspiration. To give an example, relevant EU financial instruments include the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD)and the External Investment Plan(EIP). The EIP uses so-called blended financing which provides guarantees with the aim to motivate investors to invest in higher-risk developing countries. Smartly invested capital is particularly important to create jobs, increase economic growth and thus empower local communities. This initiative eventually contributes to achieving the SDGs.
For everyone interested in SAIDC and its activities, we recommend to check out their website and you can also follow them on Facebook.