[NAIROBI] Twenty African countries are set to benefit from a data platform on developmental issues such as the Millennium Development Goals aimed at improving access to quality information.
The Open Data for African platform, funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), seeks to improve evidence-based decision-making, policy formulation and overall good governance in Africa. It will also provide members of the public with easy access to official statistics online.
Charles Lufumpa Leyeka, director of the statistics department of the AfDB, tells SciDev.Net that the initiative provides a unique opportunity for African countries to implement international statistical standards for greater comparability of data at regional and international levels, as the countries will now all be linked to each other via a common platform.
The initiative will also address the challenge of submitting data from national statistical officers to international development partners and organisations.
"Officers will only need to upload data and [make it] available to the various development partners and users [thus], significantly reducing the data reporting burden," says Leyeka.
He adds that the platform offers a unique opportunity to various users such as policymakers and partners around the world to gain access to reliable and timely data on Africa.
"Users can perform comprehensive analysis at country and regional levels, and share their views thereby creating an informed community."
"These diverse groups can now contribute effectively to decision making thus leading to more transparency, accountability and improved governance."
One of the challenges to this initiative, according to Leyeka, is poor Internet connectivity in some African countries.
However, the AfDB has made plans to assist those countries with limited information technology (IT) capacity. "The Bank will host platforms for countries that cannot do their own for a period of at least two years, during which they will be supported to strengthen their IT infrastructure and technical staffing."
Robert Masinde, an IT lecturer at Kenya's Moi University tells SciDev.Net that the initiative will revolutionise how development projects ought to be identified, prioritised, executed, monitored and evaluated in Africa.
He says that with huge investments in the IT sector, especially in data transmission via fibre optics, and the expanding supply of electricity, the open platform already has a reliable infrastructure.
Masinde adds that data security is the main challenge to this initiative. "The end users of this data must be adequately protected as they access this info and the platform should also be secured from hackers who are likely to invade and corrupt this invaluable data.”
The platform was launched in Tunis last month (14 March). The twenty countries are Algeria, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa news desk.