How Africa’s Data Revolution Can Deliver Sustainable Development Outcomes

Donald Mogeni at Huffington Post: “…As a demonstration of this political will, several governments in Africa are blazing the trail in numerous ways. For instance, the Government of Senegal now considers investment in data as important as it would treat investment in physical infrastructure such as roads. In Ghana and Sierra Leone, more policy-makers and legislators are now using data to inform their work and make planning is continuously evidence-based.

Despite the progressive developments, several cautionary statements are worth noting. Firstly, data is not a silver-bullet to addressing present development challenges and/or problems. To be transformative, use of data and evidence must include political agency and citizen mobilization. Thus, while data may highlight important development cleavages, it may not guarantee change if not used appropriately within the various political contexts. ‘Everyone Counts’, a new global initiative by CARE, KWANTU and World Vision (that was also showcased in the meeting) seeks to contribute to this agenda.

Secondly, there is need for data ‘experts’ to move beyond the chronic obsession with big numbers to ensure greater inclusion of marginalised and vulnerable segments of the population. Achieving this will require a ‘business unusual’ approach that devises better data collection methodologies and technologies that must collect more and better than ever before. This ‘new’ data should then be used together with administrative and open data to ensure that ‘no one is left behind’.

Thirdly, the utility of citizen-generated data is still contentious – especially within state institutions. Increasing the value of this data must therefore involve standardization of data collection tools and methodologies across the board (to the extent possible), making consideration for ethical approvals, subjecting this data to quality audits and triangulation, as well as adhering to quality assurance standards.

Fourthly, the emergence of various data communities within African countries has made the roles of National Statistical Offices in the data ecosystem even more crucial. However, significant capacity and technical disparities exist between the various National Statistical Offices (NSOs) in Africa. To realise the potential of data and statistics in achieving sustainable development outcomes, financial and human capacities of these institutions must to be enhanced….(More)”.