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Author: LA SDGs Project Team

Date Published: 14 February 2020

Blog: Open Source SDG Data Reporting for Local Governments

The City of Los Angeles is the first city to report SDG data at the indicator level. In this blog post we explain why we are reporting data on the SDGs using an open source platform and provide resources for other local governments that want to do the same.

In 2016, the United States and United Kingdom governments partnered with the nonprofit Center for Open Data Enterprise to develop an open source reporting platform (Open SDG) for national governments to publish their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the City of Los Angeles, we have also chosen to use this reporting platform and are the first city in the world to adapt Open SDG for local level SDG data reporting. The work done here in L.A. can be used by other sub national governments to start reporting their own SDG data at the indicator level. Open source SDG data reporting can help local governments reframe their existing data in the global development language to create new local partnerships while remaining transparent and accountable to their communities.

What Are The SDG Indicators?

As adopted by the United Nations, the SDGs include 17 goals, 169 targets, and 244 indicators. A goal expresses an ambitious, but specific, commitment and always starts with a verb/action. A target is a quantified sub-component of a goal that will contribute in a major way to its achievement. A target should be an outcome. An indicator is a precise metric to assess if a target is being met. Most data reporting is done at the indicator level of the SDGs. 

SDG Graphics Indicators

If National Governments Are Already Doing This, Why Should Cities?

Over half of the world’s population currently live in cities, and that number is growing. Cities also consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for over 70% of global CO2 emissions. The world’s social, economic, and environmental challenges and opportunities are concentrated in cities, and local stakeholders are best positioned to impact local needs and services. 

Once adapted to the local level, we believe the SDGs can help cities track progress, identify gaps, and bring partners together to scale what is working. Cities often report metrics related to city services, education, and public safety. In the U.S., they are able to draw on national measures related to demographics, income, and some social services. Environmental reporting is growing in cities as well, but often remains disconnected from economic or social externalities. The crosscutting nature of the SDGs allow city governments and residents to look at local progress holistically. Cities reporting on the SDGs can simultaneously track progress on education, poverty, climate change, economy, and justice while also being transparent with their residents through open and accessible data. Local governments will not achieve the SDGs alone, but can act as an integrating force. Through shared, open data, city governments can highlight where challenges remain and call on every sector to make progress.

Why Should Governments Use Open Source Technology to Report Data on the SDGs?

Open source technology runs on source code that is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. The SDGs are a global agenda and tools used to make progress on this agenda should not be owned by any one company or entity. Using open source technology allows governments to build and share tools as part of a global community. We chose open source tools so that the work done in L.A. could be replicated by other cities in a low-cost and transparent way. The City of L.A. is committed to open data and its ability to provide transparency, encourage accountability, and empower Angelenos to participate in governance with greater understanding and impact. Open SDG supports our use of open data and provides us with an opportunity to share data and collaborate on reporting best practices with the Open SDG community.

Open Source Technology Graphics

What Other Governments Are Already Using Open SDG?

Four more countries (Armenia, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, and Rwanda) report their SDG data using Open SDG for its flexibility, low cost, and community of practice. The UK Office of National Statistics has supported Kyrgyzstan and Rwanda in developing their national platforms and also has plans to work with cities in the UK to develop local platforms.

How Can Other Cities Adapt the Work Done by the City of Los Angeles and Start Reporting on the SDGs?

We had to develop several modifications to the national reporting tool to fit our local needs. To get started, cities can use the Open SDG Quick Start Guide to build the platform, then follow the steps in our wiki page to adapt the platform to their local context. Launching the data reporting tool and adapting it to the local level does not require a programmer. Following the thorough guides, a city can have a localized reporting platform up and running in a week.

What Are Some Data Sources That Local Governments Can Use to Report on the SDGs?

Many of the SDG indicators can be reported at the city level by using a geographic subset of official national statistics. In the United States, about 20 of the indicators can be sourced from U.S. Census data. Other data sources include data collected by city departments (many of which are reported in Los Angeles Open Data for the City of Los Angeles), earth observations (e.g. SDG 6.6.1), and community-generated data.

SDG Indicator Data Sources