Promise to data: What the SDGs mean for persons with disability in China

BY Marielza Oliveira, Elin Bergman | August 29, 2018|Comments 0

China has strong and capable statistical systems, no surprises there. After all, China is known for its ambitious Five-Year Plans, which have shifted focus from economic growth to policy planning, environmental protection, and social programmes for its population of 1.4 billion. What’s different and unique about its 13th Five-Year Plan is that it’s very much aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Even so, China faces a daunting challenge to implement Agenda 2030. For starters, it only has official data for less than 30 percent of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicators, and much less when considering data that covers vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities.

With more than 85 million, China has the largest population with disabilities in the world. The good news is that China keeps a record of people with disability, so the official data sources are up-to-date.

To support the Chinese government’s efforts to improve monitoring of the SDGs addressing people with disabilities, we at UNFPA, UNESCO, UNRCO, UN Women and WHO came together to test innovative approaches to collect focused and disaggregated data.

Starting in Qinghai

We selected the Qinghai Province in Northwest China as the pilot location to test new ways of collecting data. In Qinghai, the estimated number of persons with disability is five percent of the total population, of which about 70 percent live in rural areas.

There are about 150,000 people registered in Qinghai Disabled Persons’ Federation, the local chapter of China Disabled Persons’ Federation. Therefore, it was important for us to look at their administrative data, which are key for crosslinking data from various sectors, including public services data.

To demonstrate how data collection in underdeveloped regions can be operationalized in a smart way, we collected, analyzed and crosslinked all the administrative data of people with a disability ID with the following big data sources:

  • Data from the national survey of basic services and needs for people with disabilities which is developed and updated by China Disabled Persons’ Federation, the National Bureau of Statistics and local Disabled Persons’ Federations;
  • Data from the public services and various sectors including health, education, employment, social security, poverty alleviation and community services. This type of data is gathered from crosslinking disability ID data with public services data.
  • Data from internet-based platforms. It’s possible to use big data to integrate and crosslink all data from the disability ID system, administrative data of disability services from China Disabled Persons’ Federation and the administrative data of public services.

By expanding the existing official data with information from other sources, China has the potential to not only monitor the additional SDG indicators, but it can also compile additional disaggregated views of SDG progress to monitor specific groups and locations in need of support while strengthening “real-time” monitoring and analytics.

During this process, we engaged the vulnerable groups in the analysis and interpretation of data. For us, knowing what people living with disabilities think and need is key. We carefully examined their views to highlight the SDGs indicators that could directly benefit their well-being.

The hindrances of data collection

We experienced a few setbacks throughout the process, but, we adopted coping mechanisms to address the issue of data collection and analysis:

  • Quality control of data. The disability data available from different sectors uses very different standards and follows different collection approaches. Moving forward, we propose to check and purify the data using standard disability datasets and a data crosslink approach. We also optimized the timeliness and the mechanisms to update the data.
  • Sharing data among sectors. The key index of disability and people with disabilities was determined using the disability ID. The data across sectors was crosslinked with key index such as disability ID and others.

What we discovered

The administrative data platform of people with disability was recently updated with the results from the annual survey of unmet needs and services for people with disabilities nationwide. This platform provides timely data for monitoring SDGs that address people with disabilities.

Other sectors have developed big data platforms using citizens’ ID. To continue enhancing the administrative data records, it’s important to collaborate with other stakeholders, such as health care and educational departments to extend the existing data sources. Household surveys can also be used to fill in the gaps of official disability statistics.

We shared our discoveries with an expert panel, which included representatives from the Chinese government, the National Bureau of Statistics, China Disabled Persons’ Federation and its Qinghai branch, Qinghai Department of Commerce, Institute of Rehabilitation Information/WHO Family International Classifications Collaborating Center China, China Disability Data Research Institute, Soochow University, Nanjing Special Education Teachers College, UN agencies, as well as Chinese IT giants

What’s next

The methodology implemented in Qinghai province can easily be extended to other vulnerable groups since they also face similar challenges. Stakeholders can also adopt similar tactics to develop specific SDG indicators, data collection and analysis to evaluate their progress.

As for next steps, the UN country team will continue to research protocols and methods to monitor disability-inclusive SDGs. We will also develop a knowledge platform in Chinese to promote capacity building for the implementation of Agenda 2030 and conduct an international comparative study of technical approaches of data collection and analysis. Data and internet-based surveys will also be developed to learn more about the needs of people with disabilities and improve services for them, while at the same time using those statistics to make sure that we leave no one behind.

What methods are you disaggregate the SDGs to ensure data for action with people living with disabilities? If you have some tips, do tell!

Photography: Jonathan Kos-Read. License by Creative Commons

Authors


Marielza Oliveira Marielza is Director of the Beijing Cluster Office of UNESCO in China. You can follow UNESCO on Twitter.
Elin Bergman Elin is Head of the UN Resident Coordinator Office in China. You can follow the UN in China on Weibo

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