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This is one of a series of CGD blogs on tweaks to the SDG targets

Target 9.1 discusses reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on access. It may be a good target to include specific mention of an under-addressed infrastructure need: roads.   While access to transport is addressed in general terms in Goal 11, there is no specific mention of road access (as compared to other infrastructure including water, sanitation, electricity and telecommunications). 

The World Bank’s Rural Access Index measures the number of rural people who live within two kilometers of an all-season road as a proportion of the total rural population.  Latest (dated) estimates suggest around one billion people lack that access, concentrated in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.  Change cannot occur overnight, and there is not the data to measure trends in the access measure over time, but between 1990 and 2011 World Bank data suggests a number of countries have seen a significant increase in the percentage of roads in national systems that are paved, for example –from 54 to 73% in Pakistan for example, or 45 to 57% in Indonesia.  While it may not be possible to set a specific numeric target on the basis of patchy data, it should be possible to ask for significant progress at least in this measure by 2030.  The specific language might be:  “Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all, including significant progress in reducing the number of the world’s people who live more than two kilometers from an all-weather road.”

Target 9.5 discusses the vital development topic of innovation and scientific research. The target proposes a numerical measure of increased R&D workers but does not set it.  This gap could be addressed and an additional numerical target of non-defense R&D spending appended.  Between 2000 and 2010, the number of researchers in R&D per million people worldwide climbed 18%.  Given that, a stretch goal for 2015-2030 might be 20%.  Between 2005 and 2011, World R&D spending as a proportion of global GDP increased from a (low point) of 2.02% to 2.13%.  Given that, and assuming an increase in the non-defense share of R&D, a fifteen year target of increasing global R&D as a percentage of global GDP by one fifth might be a suitable stretch goal. This would suggest target language as follows:  “Enhance scientific research, upgrade technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries, including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people by [20] per cent and public and private non-defense research and development spending as a percentage of global GDP by one fifth.”

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.