In nearly every country on the continent, portions of the population have lived their entire lives in the informal sector. With limited infrastructure and only analog record keeping, a person could have a probable chance to live their entire life without any official state record of their existence.
In the absence of any sort of national civil registry that assigns a unique identification number to each citizen, official population statistics are a significant and expensive challenge. In that void, informed decision-making for critical infrastructures like healthcare, security, employment and agriculture becomes all but impossible. On the flip side, with the right data backbone in place, governments can better allocate limited resources effectively, cut down on waste, and better serve its people.
"When the data is poor, you will make poor decisions,” said George Gyan, Minister of Planning for the Republic of Ghana."
At the conference, officials from Ghana and Kenya both announced new efforts to ensure everyone has a national ID and birth certificate, respectively. With those systems in place, it becomes possible for the government to build deeper understanding and facilitate the needs of citizens.
“Making the poor visible brings them to the center of development work,” said William Samoei Ruto, the Deputy President of Kenya.
Ghanaian Minister of Planning George Gyan-Baffor summed up what the change means for his country, noting that there has been a “historic over reliance on surveys and census, but we’re now moving to a full data portfolio of lifecycle events.” This new approach should allow ministries to incorporate a much wider variety of data sources and types into their planning, putting them out front of key issues and ensuring services are delivered judiciously and no one is left behind.
You can learn more about the Kenyan and Ghanaian official commitments here, and read more stories about how data is impacting development in Africa here.