Governments and providers of development co-operation increasingly use Sustainable Development Goal indicators to guide their policies and practices. The close examination of three large recipients of development co-operation: Ethiopia, Kenya and Myanmar across the sectors of Education, Sanitation and Energy reveals four inter-related challenges in using SDG indicators at the country level. First, the cost of using specific SDG indicators varies in relation to indicator complexity – complementary investments in country statistical systems may be necessary. Second, providers synchronising their country-level results planning with partner countries find it easier to align to and measure SDG indicators together with the partner country and other providers. Third, reliance on joint monitoring approaches is helping providers reduce the cost of SDG monitoring. Finally, while disaggregating SDG data by gender and by urban-rural dimensions is common, other data disaggregation relevant to ensure that no one is left behind are rare.