By David Njagi
Kenya is set to host the first continental data portal on agriculture water, environment, disaster risk reduction and gender equality.
The Local Development Research Institute (LDRI) first tested the African Data Observatory (ADO) in December last year ahead of its launch in 2016.
ADO is expected to track progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) among Africa Union (AU) member countries.
“The portal will be managed from Nairobi,” explains Muchiri Nyaga, the executive director LDRI. “Its focus will be to track achievement of development goals among African Union member states.”
For it to be operational, the 10 year research product will run on a budget of about half a million dollars annually in the next four years, a kitty that LDRI is funding.
Officials say the purpose of the portal is to identify specific needs and support in regard to collection and dissemination of data, to enable countries understand where they need to invest their resources.
“ADO will enable the setting of budgets that national statistics offices need, skills, and infrastructure to collect data faster and cheaply and feed it to the public sector,” explains Nyaga.
In the past few years, governments have been aligning their growth agenda to energy efficiency, food security and water sufficiency in a way that reduces pressure on the environment.
Few however have posted updated data on their websites, a setback that denies the public access to useful information, argues Eric Chinje, the chief executive officer, Africa Media Initiative (AMI).
In Kenya, the government’s open data website has raised public confidence due to its wide feed on many sectors, but it still lacks updated data.
Other reliable sources of information include the World Bank and Africa Development Bank (AfDB) websites.
“The public need information on agriculture and energy most,” argues Chinje. “This is because agriculture feeds the nation while energy feeds the economy.”
According to a recent report by Development Initiatives (DI), the lack of data among African governments means that ending poverty over the next 15 years will be a much difficult task than halving it has been.
The Investments to End Poverty report 2015 (ITEP II), which was launched at a side event during September’s United Nations General Assembly in New York, argues that low spending on data management is the reason sub Saharan Africa is struggling with insecurity and environmental upsets.
“The data that Africa currently has on poverty and resources is not fit to get poverty to zero, argues the report. “National institutions that are the main drivers of poverty eradication have fewer resources especially in data collection and management.”
Meanwhile, LDRI says the public will be able to access the ADO data portal free of charge.
“If the public do not have data they cannot plan for themselves. And if they cannot plan for themselves then everything they do is spend money through guesswork. Africa cannot afford to play guesswork with the public’s financial resources,” argues Nyaga.