What is a data action?

The different ways companies are supporting public sector data use and governance.

Data actions companies are implementing that contribute to sustainable development.

Data collection

Primary or secondary data that is collected and stored in a database

Data migration

Moving data from one (virtual) location to another

Data analysis

Generating insights from raw data

Data visualization

Collecting and formatting raw data and translating it into visually appealing formats


There is real-world value being produced by public private data initiatives in the data revolution for sustainable development

Documents will be available soon.

Our mapping exercise uncovered hundreds of private sector data actions across 94 countries across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. There are undoubtedly countless more examples that are under-noticed and under-reported. Cumulatively, this expansive ecosystem is adding real-world value to government decision-making capability but it remains extremely difficult to measure impact.


Governments are more likely to engage with companies that can support data actions across multiple policy areas.

Documents will be available soon.

The investments in time, financial and human resources, institutional capacity and digital infrastructure needed to realize public-private data initiatives at scale means that government officials are far more likely to engage companies that are able to support data actions across multiple policy areas. In many instances – especially in lower-income countries – companies that are able to also support capacity building and knowledge generation within government institutions alongside other data actions are more likely to engage in successful initiatives.


  • Dymaxion Labs produces satellite data that are used in disaster response, agriculture, transport system mapping, urban planning, and many other domains; across multiple countries. [hyperlink Dymaxion Labs: Satellite Imagery for the Public Good]
  • The National Institute of Statistics in Chile is using data from barcode scanners to produce the monthly Chilean Consumer Price Index, and is experimenting with its use to calculate inflation. Using Retail Scanner Data to Estimate CPI in Chile
  • Airbus and other companies are providing satellite imagery and analytical services to County governments in Kenya to support local health interventions, monitor agricultural production, and the impacts of climate change.  Improving Sub-National Spatial Data Analytics in Kenya Through Public-Private Initiatives
  • Meta’s Data for Good initiative products are made available to the general public and specified partners (in instances where confidential data are being shared) and cover multiple policy domains. The Opportunities and Challenges of Using Meta’s Data for Good products in MENA
  • Public-private initiative facilitators such as Trust for the Americas. Trust for the Americas’ Role Catalysing Public-Private Initiatives in the Caribbean and Pulse Lab Jakarta.  Pulse Lab Jakarta’s Role Catalysing Public-Private Initiatives in Asia are actively facilitating initiatives between companies and governments across a host of pertinent public policy areas.

    Across all regions of the Global South, the most successful examples of public-private data initiatives are ones in which partners have invested the time and effort needed to establish proof-of-concept, build trust, and adapt and iterate the value proposition over time.

    Documents will be available soon.

    Many of the successful initiatives mapped and covered as case studies through the SDG Acceleration Roadmap project are often the result of many years of dialogue and negotiation. The reasons for the lengthiness of negotiation and iteration vary from context to context but generally include factors relating to the lack of trust, or public or political resistance to public-private initiatives, incoherence and unpredictability within the local regulatory environment, or the need to iterative and experiment with approaches until the right ‘niche’ is defined within the initiative. Exceptions to the finding relate to examples linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, which were often developed in record time.


    • Pulse Lab Jakarta has undergone several stages of evolution, moving from being a mere facilitator of initiatives to an accelerator and convenor with a reputation for success across South Asia.  In Focus: Pulse Lab Jakarta’s Role Catalysing Public-Private Initiatives in Asia

    • Dymaxion Labs has refined its commercial products over the years to ensure that they are customisable and tailored to specific government data needs. Dymaxion Labs: Satellite Imagery for the Public Good

    • The methods used by the National Institute of Statistics in Chile to calculate CPI from barcode-derived data have been developed and elaborated upon for many years across numerous countries. Using Retail Scanner Data to Estimate CPI in Chile

    • Improving Sub-National Spatial Data Analytics in Kenya Through Public-Private Initiatives

    Supporting public policy objectives and maintaining profitability to do not have to be mutually exclusive for companies seeking to engage in public-private data initiatives.

    Documents will be available soon.

    In the sustainable development space, government is often a potential client for data services across a range of data actions. Depending on context, the incentives for business-government alignment may vary from a mutual desire to support global policy agendas such as the SDGs – and increasingly their alignment with companies’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments – through to a mutual desire of local businesses and authorities to tackle local issues.


    • Companies such as Dymaxion Labs have been very successful at aligning their commercial offerings global policy agendas including the SDGs. Dymaxion Labs: Satellite Imagery for the Public Good

    • In the Caribbean, companies engaged in public-private initiatives at a local level are often more motivated by a desire to support socioeconomic development in their communities than a need to contribute to the SDGs. Trust for the Americas’ Role Catalysing Public-Private Initiatives in the Caribbean

    The most significant challenge to initiating, completing, monitoring and scaling-up public-private data initiatives is the lack of coherence across, and under-development of, the standard operating procedures needed to develop them.

    Documents will be available soon.

    All case studies produced as part of the SDG Acceleration Roadmap project identified the variability and lack of coherence in procedures for establishing public-private data initiatives as a significant (if not the most significant) obstacle to the multiplication and scaling-up of such initiatives. Our collective experience of producing our case studies has been that it can be extremely difficult to identify points of contact and build trust with companies and government departments engaged in initiatives to conduct research such as this. For public-private data initiatives to flourish further, they need to become more accessible and predictable to engage with, study and monitor.


    Recommendations for stakeholders

    Partners in public-private data initiatives (public authorities and companies)
    • While, overall, there are few differences in the opportunities and challenges facing public-private data initiatives across regions, regional contexts and nuances are still vitally important factors to consider when designing new partnerships. It is no surprise that different countries and regions in the world have different public policy priorities, and approaches to public-private partnerships generally. These differences are forged by local needs, levels of economic development, political prioritization of data and digital opportunities, cultural and social norms, and other factors. Our mapping exercise and case studies have shown that while by-and-large the challenges that stakeholders face across the board are similar, entities seeking to forge new public-private data initiatives should ensure that they consider the following issues within the local context that they wish to operate:

    1. How mature is the local data ecosystem?

    a. How accessible or complex are local laws, policies and conventions relating to data sharing, protection, accessibility and (re)use?

    b. Are there local multi-stakeholder networks/alliances/consortia that already include public and private stakeholders engaged in data-related initiatives?

    c. Are there any local, regional or international partnership convenors active in the country/region who could provide advice and support to a nascent initiative?

    2. What are the main public policy priority areas and what local data sources are available?

    a. What are the data action-related needs of the government?

    b. Are the public policy priority areas linked at all to global frameworks like the SDGs or Paris Agreement?

    c. What are the main local data sources and how could they be improved/supplemented by privately held data, infrastructure, support  or expertise?

    3. What is the general level of digital and data literacy within public institutions and also within the general public?

    a. What capacities exist to use non-traditional data sources within governments and what are the gaps?

    b. What types of data action would it be realistic to provide given the level of data and digital literacy observed?

    c. What is the general state of data and digital literacy in the context you want to operate; for instance, how serious an issue is public trust in official data, support or mistrust for the private sector, etc. in the country/region?

    4. What are the prospects for the longer-term sustainability of any public-private data initiative given the local economic and political context?

    a. Is your proposed public-private data initiative politically contentious in any way? If so, what could be done to make it less political?

    b. What are the sources of funding that your partnership is relying on and what will happen to your initiative when that funding is extinguished?

    c. Do you have a plan in place to close/transition your initiative once its main objectives have been met and do the resources, capacities and infrastructure exist to do so? 

    • Our research has found that the majority of public-private data initiatives are bilateral in terms of their composition – i.e. one government department partners with one private sector provider. There are often legitimate incentives and reasons for this approach, including the ability of specific companies to fill particular data gaps, and the desire of companies to build relationships with potential government clients. However, we would urge stakeholders engaging in public-private data initiatives to consider the benefits of more open, ecosystem-based approaches to partnership initiatives too where they are feasible. In many instances, collective data sharing can provide benefits for all stakeholders involved. For instance, The Singapore Tourism Board established an analytics platform (the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (STAN)) that aggregates traffic flow data from multiple private sector providers to establish a more complete picture of transport and mobility in the country

    • Data are a valuable asset that drive successful decision-making – whether corporate or in policymaking. We believe that there is an argument to be made for governments to provide more incentives for the greater sharing of privately-produced and held data that is of public interest. As it stands, companies with a wealth of administrative, consumer research, environmental impact, and other types of data often feel inhibited from sharing their data assets due to concerns around commercial confidentiality. However, if there were explicit incentives in place that recognised the inherent value of private sector data to public life, this could potentially lead to far more access to privately held data by public authorities. We recommend that this be an area for future research and exploration.

    • Governments should consider working with their local Chambers of Commerce, National Statistics Offices and/or SDG focal points, and business leaders to establish national, open registries of public-private initiatives relating to public policy priorities, including those relating to data initiatives. This will help track and monitor the proliferation and progress of initiatives designed to help meet the SDGs, including public-private data initiatives, while also raising the profile of such initiatives.

    • Our research has highlighted that when designing public-private data initiatives it is crucial to consider all capacity, data and digital skill needs, and knowledge gaps at the outset and map out how potential solutions can meet those needs. If the actors involved in a particular partnership are unable to meet all the needs from the outset, they could consider approaching public-private data initiative intermediaries such as Pulse Lab Jakarta, the Trust for the Americas or Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, among others for potential support. Partnerships such as the UN Global Compact may also be able to offer guidance and support to help frame and design your initiative.

    • Companies that are working on public-private data initiatives should contribute to, and participate in, initiatives such as the UN Global Compact to enhance the visibility of their work and contributions to the SDGs. While this may seem obvious, our mapping work uncovered hundreds of examples of public-private data initiatives that are not registered within the UN Global Pulse library, indicating that there is substantial and valuable activity that is not being documented or monitored at a global level.

    • At a practical level, government and private sector stakeholders engaged in public-private data initiatives should strive to develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) for how these initiatives are conducted to facilitate their monitoring and knowledge generation functions. Steps that should be considered as part of any SOP should include:

    Designating an easily discernible contact point for researchers, media and other interested parties to establish communication with if and when needed;

    Committing to the production and publication of periodic updates on the progress being achieved through the public-private partnership, including a final report;

    Ensuring that the resources needed to effect the above provisions and any other public interest requirements are included in plans at the design phase of a new partnership; and

    Fostering an interactive and dynamic public-private data ecosystem to promote synergy and reduce duplication of effort.

    Multilateral bodies and the UN

    The UN’s Global Compact initiative, which describes itself as the “world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative” provides a solid foundation for capturing and documenting SDG related initiatives, including public-private data initiatives. However, given the multiplicity of these types of initiatives – from grass-roots to global in scale – we would urge that an “initiative tracker” be developed to further entrench the monitoring function of the Global Compact and provide more comprehensive coverage of the numbers and types of public-private initiatives, including data initiatives, being undertaken globally. To this end, we urge the UN Global Compact to work with the UN Statistics Division to explore the feasibility of establishing a global standardized statistical module on public-private initiatives for the SDGs (structured around the language of SDG 17) to be incorporated into Member States’ routine business surveys. Such an approach would enable more comprehensive and standardized collection of data on the breadth and scope of public-private initiatives globally.


    We would further urge the UN Global Compact and UN Statistics Division to coordinate with the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, and with the emerging UN Digital Compact process to ensure that appropriate tools for capturing data on the breadth and scope of public-private data and digital initiatives forms part of the eventual Digital Compact too, and are available to the public.

    Funders and donors
    • Donors and funders that support the data revolution for sustainable development have a challenging balancing act to perform between supporting successful public-private data initiative models that can scale, and making riskier investments in pilot studies and newer, innovative approaches. In our view, based on our research, there is often perhaps too much of a bias in resourcing going to support new innovative projects, rather than scaling successful examples. For instance, INE’s use of barcode data to support CPI and inflation calculations [hyperlink case study] is well proved, but remains an underfunded area. We would urge funders and donors to ensure that there is balanced investment in approaches with a proven track record of success and newer, innovative approaches that involve experimentation with the use of emerging tech to help achieve and monitor the SDGs.

    • Our research has shown just how valuable intermediary entities are at brokering and supporting public-private data initiatives. Entities such as Pulse Lab Jakarta and Trust for the Americas have had a real catalytic effect in South Asia and the Caribbean respectively in fostering not only specific initiatives, but also helping to establish regional-level data ecosystems. In our view, there is a strong case for intermediary entities such as these to be further supported given the outsized role they play within the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development Data in fostering an ecosystem approach.

    • Our research has shown that it is crucial that funders and donors consider the costs of participation in public-private data partnerships for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that have valuable access to local markets and knowledge, but find the costs of participating in voluntary public-private data initiatives at scale. Pooled funds of resources to support SMEs may be an option for donors and funders to consider.
    Think tanks and civil society

    Civil society, think tanks and researchers engaged in the data revolution for sustainable development have an important role to play in undertaking research to fill knowledge gaps, helping develop training materials and open-source guidance that can help to improve the design and implementation of public-private data initiatives. Research initiatives such as our own here play an important role in independently documenting progress, identifying trends, and areas for further investigation and improvement.

    Our Work by Region

     Latin America 

    Case studies, executive summaries and blogs


    Case studies, executive summaries and blogs

     Middle East and North Africa 

    Case studies, executive summaries and blogs


    Case studies, executive summaries and blogs


    Case studies, executive summaries and blogs

    Project Members

    Abed Khooli

    ICT Specialist
    Center for Continuing Education
    Birzeit University

    Helani Galpaya


    Muchiri Nyaggah

    Executive Director

    Luisa Córdoba

    Former Strategic Partnerships Advisor

    Jaime Gallego

    Former Data Researcher

    Maurice McNaughton

    Centre for IT-enabled Innovation
    Mona School of Business & Management

    Hernán Muñoz

    Former Senior Data Policy Advisor

    Philipp Schönrock


    Tom Orrell

    Managing Director

    Participating organizations

    Financed by

    In partnership with

    This work is supported by a grant from the International Development Research Center (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada. However, the views expressed herein do not represent those of IDRC or its Board of Governors.

    With the support of

    Our research partners are the Mona School of Business & Management at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, Local Development Research Institute (LDRI) in Kenya, and the Center for Continuing Education (CCE) at Birzeit University in Palestine.

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