Every day, sites like Netflix, Spotify and Flipboard tap into the power of data to provide recommendations that make life ‘easier’, or at least more entertaining. However, in many important areas such as global health and development, and in developing countries, basic information doesn’t exist. Often, even where it does, it is considered biased or sexist.
That’s why Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced a $80 million commitment over the next three years to close these gender data gaps and accelerate progress for women and girls – making the invisible visible, to improve pay equality. ‘Basic information’ is as basic as birthplace and date of birth, hours worked and pay – if any. Unpaid hidden work such as cooking, cleaning and caring may be unrecognised, but underpins every society and strengthens every economy.
In her keynote speech at the Women Deliver 2016 conference in Copenhagen, Gates explained how, by providing a better understanding of the way women live their lives, the new initiative supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – which aim ‘to leave no one behind’: “We simply don’t know enough about the barriers holding women and girls back, nor do we have sufficient information to track progress against the promises made to women and girls,” says Melinda Gates. “We are committed to changing that by investing in better data, policies and accountability.”
If this sounds too abstract, it’s not. The commitment will support efforts that fill critical blind spots in data, improving accuracy and reliability of its collection and programmes that work. The Foundation will also work to hold leaders to account for the commitments they’ve made to women and girls.
“I know that data can seem complicated and boring. But it will help save, protect and transform the lives of millions of women and girls all around the world,” Gates writes on Medium. “It’s that simple – and, in fact, that’s pretty exciting too.”
Check out these five projects from the Atlas that use the gathering of data and technology to counter inequality all around the world.
Melinda Gates, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
United States (Seattle)