Data key to solving Africa’s development challenges

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[KASANE, BOTSWANA] Effective use of data will provide opportunity and impetus for solving African socioeconomic and environmental challenges.
This was one of the key messages I gathered out of the 10th General Assembly of the Africa Academy of Sciences meeting this week (21-22 June) in Kasane, Botswana.
How open data revolution is essential both to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and valuable to measuring progresses in meeting them in Africa caught my attention.

Open data can help ensure that plans to achieve the SDGs are evidence-based, and that their outcomes are measurable.

Kay Raseroka, Research Data Alliance

First and most important, these goals (SDGs) apply to every nation in Sub-Saharan Africa and every sector including cities, businesses, schools, organisations are all challenged to act.
Data from household energy surveys, satellite imagery and other sources can help governments and private entrepreneurs prioritise investments in energy generation and decide where and how to extend the electric grid, and ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy supply for all in Africa.
However, this requires collaboration among the scientists, experts, policy makers, private sector players and the communities to spearhead and establish standards for open source data policy, which will be a tool for accountability and an evidence base for impact assessment in the continent.
Experts at the meeting emphasised that data will increase transparency, accountability and citizen participation that will in turn improve governance by exposing and preventing mismanagement as well as corruption. This will also ensure environmental sustainability and reduce pollution, conserve natural resources and build resilience to climate change.
Kay Raseroka, a consultant and council member at Research Data Alliance observes that data provides critical information on natural resources, government operations, public services, private sectors and population demographics.
Listening to Raseroka was quite convincing that analysing data of the state of a country’s resources and the activities used to extract resources can help both gauge change in conditions over time, and assess the impact of practices such as mining and drilling and made available in the public domain to help to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.

This is also useful in sustainable management of forests, combating desertification, halting and reversing land degradation as well as biodiversity loss.
 “Open data can help ensure that plans to achieve the SDGs are evidence-based, and that their outcomes are measurable,” says Raseroka.
Open source data can surely be a major input to achieve the SDGs and should be encouraged in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.