Counting people to make people count

DI’s contribution to the high level conference on the Data Revolution in Africa.

At the end of March African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development will gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for a series of high level meetings. One of the key outcomes will be an African Data Consensus drafted by the side meeting Setting the scene for a sustainable development agenda powered by Data Revolution in Africa. DI, along with PARIS21, Statistics South Africa and the Web Foundation, is partnering with the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union and the African Development Bank in this undertaking. DI is responsible for convening the development data community, one of twelve working groups that between them will draft the outcome document. Each community is tasked with articulating key concerns of practitioners and experts across the continent who produce and use data that supports decision making to reduce poverty and achieve better development outcomes.

DI maintains that such decisions, by governments and other development stakeholders, require information that primarily builds on data grounded in the counting of people wherever possible, not a calculation of populations and their needs. In particular, this implies the need to strengthen civil registration and administrative data collection systems, supported by robust National Statistics Development Strategies.

To have an impact on poverty reduction and development outcomes, this data must drive decision making, not merely support the monitoring of progress. This necessitates ownership of the data revolution at national level, and the disaggregation of data down to the very local level where decisions are taken that affect the lives and livelihoods of people.

Our initial consultations with practitioners and experts (including substantial input from colleagues at the African Population and Health Research Center) indicate an emerging consensus around these themes in the African development data community. This is reflected in the community’s preliminary draft document. This paper will help frame the detailed discussions of the community on the first day of the conference and support the articulation of the group’s final inputs to the African Data Consensus. While a number of other communities will focus on further key aspects of the data revolution – from the role of national statistics systems to the role of open and citizen-produced data – we certainly hope that the critical importance of counting people to make their needs and aspirations matter in decision making will be strongly reflected in the outcome of the conference.