The Global Fund needs to accord a much higher priority to data collection and use, according to Cathryn Streifel and Todd Summers, authors of a paper on “Data for Decisionmaking and the Global Fund.” The paper, published in October by the Center for Strategic International Studies, was based on a discussion organized by CSIS among a small group of data experts.
The authors state that the new funding model has improved the impact of Global Fund investments, particularly as a result of the back-and-forth that occurs with the submission and review of concept notes. However, they argue, the success of the NFM has been challenged by a lack of data to guide smart investment decisions. “Although any of the Global Fund’s top-line objectives requires robust country data, there often remains a startling lack of capacity to collect and utilize high-quality data at the country level.”
The paper says that the Global Fund allocates only 5% of its resources to data collection and analysis, and that an enhanced effort around data will require a significant investment in human resources at the Secretariat and at country level. The authors identified significant gaps in data collection in the following areas:
data on the beneficiaries of services disaggregated by age, gender, income status and risk group;
- data at the sub-national and community level;
- comprehensive data on TB cases; and
- data on key populations.
Regarding the last item, the authors said that often data on key populations is not collected for political reasons. “The Global Fund needs to determine when and how to intervene when critical data are missing, assuming a more proactive stance when necessary,” they added.
Even when data are available, the authors stated, they are often not presented in a way that allows non-technical audiences to use them. “As a result, civil society organizations, advocacy organizations, and government officials are disconnected from the data they need to make smart evidence-based decisions; to fulfill their oversight roles; and to make the case for additional domestic resources.”
The authors argue that data transparency should be a Global Fund priority. “For instance, the Global Fund should consider making concept notes available much earlier in the process so that others can point out gaps in data or programs inconsistent with data even before formal reviews commence.” In addition, they said, the timely posting of grant progress reports and reviews should be standard procedure.
The authors recommend that data efforts focus first on the 15-20 countries where the HIV, TB and malaria epidemics are heavily concentrated.
Regarding the internal operations of the Secretariat, the authors stated, the Global Fund uses multiple databases that may meet the needs of individual units but that make it harder to utilize those data for broader purposes. They added that the Fund should adopt an internal strategy for data collection and use that would allow the data to be shared and quality controlled across units. “To the maximum extent possible,” they said, “these data should be available to the public.”
The authors state that improving country data capacity should be a central element in the Global Fund’s new strategy, which is currently being developed. However, they said, strengthening data capacity currently appears only as a sub-point under one of the four objectives in the framework that has been developed for the new strategy.