Every year on 14 October, members of the international community celebrate World Standards Day, as a way of paying tribute to the collaborative efforts of all those who develop the technical agreements that are published as international standards.
While standards are sometimes justifiably accused of introducing rigidities or being a cause of mediocrity, when it comes to measurement, standards are necessary in order to facilitate comparisons. Whether it is metric system of weights and measures or the imperial system, some system is necessary to facilitate fair trade and replicable science. Official statistics are no different.
In order to measure complex human economic and social activities the United National has devised a wide range of statistical classifications, such as the International Standard Industrial Classification of all economic activity, the Central Product Classification or the Classification of Individual Consumption According to Purpose to allow statistical information to be compiled in an internationally comparable way.
The unprecedented statistical challenge presented by Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the SDG monitoring framework will require the development of new data ecosystems that must be able to deal with very large volumes of data. For such systems to work, the data must adhere to standards. But existing standards may not be enough. The complexity of the SDG monitoring framework presents an unparalleled challenge for countries. Hence the need for what UNCTAD has called 'National Data Infrastructure'. Without rational architectural design, data infrastructure and harmonized classifications many countries will not be able to build statistical systems appropriate to a data driven world. Nor will they be able to meet existing and future demands for information, including the SDG monitoring framework.
For more information on this discussion see DGFF 2016 - Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure.