Pathways Towards Data Interoperability for the Sustainable Development Goals in Canada

In order for Canada to achieve its role in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), organizations across sectors need access to higher-quality data to inform decision-making and evaluate progress. This requires investment in collecting data, as well as joining up  existing and emerging data sets. In other words, Canada must work toward greater interoperability.

Data becomes interoperable when data sets from different sources can be accessed, processed and integrated without losing meaning. And this, in turn, unlocks massive network effects. Interoperability can increase data sharing, data quality and automated data processing, while also reducing fragmentation of data and resource intensity of data collection. This then creates significant new value for Canadian organizations and society.

The following report maps the current landscape of SDG data interoperability in Canada, synthesizing participatory workshops and interviews with a survey of key literature and online sources. First, we articulate a desirable future state — the Internet of Impact — where more interoperable data accelerates progress towards SDGs. We then chart plausible pathways towards the desired future, considering syntactic and semantic interoperability; human and machine data integration; and centralized and distributed approaches to interoperability.

It is important to remember that achieving data interoperability is not a single problem with a single solution; but we must invest in it to unlock data’s potential to further social good.

By leading the development of SDG data interoperability, Canada can accelerate its own contributions towards the SDGs, while also making a valuable contribution to a difficult problem — a problem that, for the first time, is within reach of being solved.

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