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Methodology for determining the indicators

These are the steps taken to devise a methodology for determining the status of an indicator is described below. 

Step 1

Identifying data Australia’s national statistical agency, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), conducted a data mapping exercise on the SDG Indicators, exploring both ABS and other Government-held data sources to identify relevant, pre-existing and appropriate data sets that either match or closely align to the SDG Indicators. This work set the foundation for relevant Australian Government agencies to determine the most appropriate data source to use for reporting against each of the indicators. As for most countries, identifying and presenting relevant datasets has proven challenging for Australia. These challenges have included:

  • The diversity of potential data providers within the Australian Government;
  • That data sets can often be spread across a number of Australian jurisdictions and are not necessarily aggregated at the federal level; and
  • The number of SDG Indicators that have no, as yet, accepted methodology for collection (the Tier III Indicators).

In co-operation with agencies, ABS classified Australian data sources against the SDG Indicators using a 0 to 5 ranking system.

  • 0: not rated
  • 1: Indicator can be reported on in detail with existing data
  • 2: Indicator can be reported on partially with existing data
  • 3: Indicator cannot be reported on from existing data
  • 4: Indicator may not be relevant to Australia
  • 5: Further work needed to determine if the Indicator can be reported on.

Step 2

Developing a methodology for publication Once datasets had been identified and categorised, agencies considered the appropriateness of publishing. A methodology was devised to ensure consistency of approach.

The methodology is:

  1. The relevant custodian of the data must agree to the publication and must, therefore, have confidence in the data;
  2. The Indicator must be a UN designated Tier I Indicator or a Tier II Indicator;
  3. The Indicator must be able to be reported with existing, already publicly available data (i.e. it does not require new data to be produced however some data compilation may be required) and the data must be collated in accordance with the established methodology OR if it has not been collated according to the established methodology, it must include a caveat that clearly denotes any differences in method or definition used in its collation; and
  4. “Regularly produced” is defined to mean the data is collected sufficiently regularly (i.e. at least every five years) using a consistent methodology and can therefore be used to create a time series.

Step 3

Developing the Reporting Platform Agencies initially focused on preparing a statistical annex that would include Australian datasets against a select number of SDG Indicators. However, as data collection work proceeded, agencies agreed to establish a data platform that would house available Australian Government datasets on the SDG Indicators and also indicate the status of Australian data collection against all 232 SDG Indicators. Agencies agreed to set up a platform similar in nature to respective data platforms for the UK and USA, using similar open source technology and running on a govCMS site. This model has been recommended by the UNECE Task Force on National Reporting Platforms. The Reporting Platform is a whole-of-government initiative, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, produced by the Australian Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy, in close cooperation with ABS, and relies on data contributions from across all relevant government agencies. The responsibility for follow up and for completion of additional data sets lies with individual agencies. Like the US and UK data platforms, each SDG Indicator is given a colour coding – green, orange, red or grey. The colour reflects the status of data that Australia holds.

  • Green: Reported online
  • Orange: Exploring data sources
  • Red: Not currently reported
  • Grey: Not applicable

As work progressed on identifying relevant datasets, designating a particular colour to a dataset often required a clarification. Agencies therefore developed and agreed on caveat sentences to apply to each choice in order to justify and explain the designation, improving the transparency of the process. These are explained on the following page. As noted previously, not all 232 Indicators are considered relevant to Australia. The SDG Indicators that are colour coded Red reflect SDG Indicators that are not relevant to Australia and where the development of data sets is not seen as an efficient or effective use of resources. This is in keeping with the expectation and understanding of the UN Statistical Commission which, when adopting the SDG Indicators, noted that it is expected that countries will approach the SDG Indicators, and the associated work required around data analysis, identification and reporting, in line with their own national priorities and capabilities. Disaggregation of datasets will be an ongoing challenge for Australia. An example of our work on this includes our support for the Washington Group on Disability Statistics, established under the UNSC. This multi-stakeholder group has developed a range of disability data tools including the Short Set of Questions on Disability and the UNICEF/Washington Group Module on Child Functioning. These tools have been tested extensively and when added to ongoing collections provide an efficient approach to monitor implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the SDGs by disaggregating data by disability status. Australia has provided financial support for this work. Specifically relevant for the Australian context, the disaggregation of data based on Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identification is critically important, both for the development of tailored policy and programs and for the measurement of impact of those policies and programs on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Australian agencies are requested to reflect disaggregation based on Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identification where datasets are already currently disaggregated. Going forward, increasing the number of data sets disaggregated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status will be a focus.

Caveat choices for describing Indicator status When classifying an Indicator under one of the colour-coded categories, agencies must choose one of the corresponding sentences to explain the status of that Indicator in the Australian context.

GREEN: Reported online

a) Data follows the globally agreed methodology for this UN SDG Indicator and has been identified by the responsible agency as the most appropriate data source.

b) Data has been drawn from a national indicator or dataset and is an approximation of the UN SDG Indicator. We will work to develop an Australian dataset that meets the globally agreed methodology for this UN SDG Indicator.

c) Data has been drawn from a national indicator or dataset and is an approximation of the UN SDG Indicator. We intend to continue to report using this dataset.

d) Data has been sourced from the UN SDG database and has been verified or approved by the responsible agency.

e) While this is not a quantitative indicator, the responsible agency has identified the relevant policy/legislation appropriate for the Australian context.

ORANGE: Exploring data sources

a) A potential data source(s) has been identified however further analysis is needed to ensure the data are suitable for reporting and is comparable to the globally agreed methodology for this UN SDG Indicator.

b) Investigation into generating/identifying appropriate data for this UN SDG Indicator is currently underway.

c) While this is not a quantitative indicator, the responsible agency is currently exploring if there is any relevant policy/legislation appropriate for the Australian context.

d) Data is available on the UN SDG database but it has not been verified or approved by the responsible agency.

RED: Not reported

a) No suitable Australian data sources exist for this UN SDG Indicator.

b) This Indicator is not relevant to Australia.

GREY: Not applicable

a) The globally agreed methodology has not been set for this UN SDG Indicator therefore Australia has not yet investigated potential data sources.

Step 4

Deploying the Reporting Platform.

The Reporting Platform is the Australian Government’s official reporting mechanism against the SDG Indicators. It provides a single point of access to anyone wishing to find out about the status of Australia’s data on each of the SDG Indicators. It is expected that the Reporting Platform will be used across the UN reporting system. It will particularly assist UN-designated Indicator Custodians responsible for compiling country data. This reporting contributes to the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on progress towards the SDGs.

The Reporting Platform will also assist in streamlining reporting that is required for other purposes: the SDGs interact with a number of other policy and reporting instruments, both nationally and internationally, and a single Reporting Platform will help to minimise duplication of reporting efforts.