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  • Report
  • 21 June 2024

Vulnerability and resilience: How does Uganda’s data ecosystem inform social protection systems?

This report assesses Uganda's vulnerability and resilience data landscape. It evaluates the data ecosystem that informs social protection systems and makes recommendations to leave no one behind.

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The promise to leave no one behind (LNOB) is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its aim to tackle poverty in all forms. As part of the LNOB commitment, UN member states are compelled to consider those being left behind first, and to tackle the discrimination and exclusion that lead to inequality.

Development Initiatives (DI) has produced a series of LNOB assessments − in Benin, Kenya and two municipalities in Nepal, Simta and Tulsipur. We worked with local partners to identify and develop the focus of each paper. DI has also published reports looking at aid effectiveness in Uganda, and Uganda’s aid information management platform.

This particular report is a data landscaping assessment. It examines the vulnerability and resilience data landscape in Uganda, and was carried out against a background of dynamic and, at times, volatile poverty and wellbeing outcomes. Individuals and communities can move in and out of poverty due to slow incremental changes, or sudden shocks or crises. Shock-responsive social protection systems and other interventions can help to secure vulnerable groups and people, but only if they are successfully managed and targeted.

The report aims to understand the data ecosystem that informs responsive social protection systems, and provide evidence-informed policy recommendations on how it can be strengthened. This information can be leveraged by the Ugandan Government, civil society and development partners.

Part 1 of this report describes the number of relevant data sources identified by the study team, and the quantity and quality of that data. It also provides case studies on the National Single Registry, the national ID system, and civil registration and vital statistics. Part 2 describes how this data is used in Uganda, and Part 3 reviews the governance and management of data systems and data use. Part 4 documents top-level policy recommendations.

You can read the executive summary below, or download the full report.

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Executive summary

Leaving no one behind (LNOB) is the core promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It compels development actors to consider the furthest behind first and to tackle the discrimination and exclusion that lead to inequality. Development Initiatives has produced several LNOB assessments through our Poverty & Inequality programme to address data and information needs of our partners and allies.

This assessment examines the vulnerability and resilience data landscape in Uganda, and recognises the dynamic and often volatile nature of poverty and wellbeing outcomes in the country. It aims to assess the data ecosystem that is related to people and their changing needs, focusing on different factors associated with their vulnerability and resilience. This information can be leveraged by the Ugandan Government, civil society and development partners to strengthen responsive social protection systems and other similar interventions associated with vulnerability and/or resilience.

Key findings

Data sources and systems

  • A total of 56 data sources and 40 data systems measuring people’s vulnerability and resilience were identified for the period from 2013 to 2023.
  • Most of Uganda’s official data sources and systems are quantitative, while more than half of non-official data sources/systems are qualitative.
  • The majority (58%) of the identified data sources/systems are “one-offs” which enable a single snapshot limited to a restricted period.
  • Less than one-third (23) of the identified sources/systems produce widely accessible data that is disaggregated below the district level.
  • The majority (70%) of the identified data sources/systems are non-official and are focused on small geographic areas (for example, on one or perhaps two sub-counties).
  • Data disaggregation is still a challenge − about half (47) of the identified data sources/systems had data disaggregated by gender; 37 had data disaggregated by age; and only 23 produce data that is disaggregated by disability type.
  • Uganda’s Data Protection and Privacy Act (2019) makes provisions for how sensitive data should be handled properly. Stakeholders involved in any step of a data lifecycle when the subjects are vulnerable individuals and/or groups need to be trained in how to apply its principles.
  • Data access is still a general problem in Uganda. Many of the actors that we spoke to said that the biggest problem is the inability to access microdata.

Key systems case studies

‘Key systems’ here refers to the National Single Registry (NSR), national IDs and civil registration and vital statistics.

  • Effective stakeholder coordination is a key element in the production, sharing and use of data on vulnerability and resilience. The NSR is an important intervention that resulted from policy being enacted and well-coordinated stakeholder cooperation. However, the system in its current form cannot help the government to better target beneficiaries of social protection programmes. Challenges remain in how to keep the data up to date and how to build capacities in local governments.
  • Uganda now uses the national ID system as the sole tool for enrolment of beneficiaries into social protection programmes. However, some major problems persist with the use of national IDs in social protection programmes. For example, around 43,000 national ID cards have the wrong data on them, which government officials we spoke to believe is the “biggest problem”.
  • Uganda has embraced the use of vital statistics, however, these cannot be used to monitor real-time changes, or to guide stakeholders’ responses to unfolding situations. This is because vital statistics are not produced using data from the civil registration system. Only 32% of births and 23% of deaths are registered in Uganda, and there are some data gaps in the information collected by the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) (such as place of birth and mothers’ details). Interviewees explained that death registration is the biggest problem, claiming that in some cases there are actually incentives not to register deaths.

Data use

  • There is a culture of limited data use in Uganda especially among those institutions and individuals working to reduce people’s vulnerability and increase their resilience. Of these, there are generally two categories:
    • Those that have no interest in using data:
      • A culture of data use is not embedded in many government and non-government organisations. Some actors stick to different ways of working, some actors are motivated by priorities other than evidence, some actors assume useful data is not available, and some actors are sceptical about the accuracy of the data.
    • Those that want to use data but cannot:
      • Actors’ data needs are not met. For example, the data that they might want − such as data on indicators, geographic locations, time series or disaggregation − does not exist. Many actors do not have the specialised skill set, time and/or resources to fully utilise the data available to them. The pool of data that actors are prepared to select from is limited, as they are hesitant to use data which is not produced by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS). The unavailability of microdata severely curtails what insight users can create for themselves.

Data governance and management

  • There is evidence of effective cooperation leading to desirable results in Uganda’s vulnerability and resilience data ecosystem. However, these instances are embedded in a data ecosystem that is more often characterised by a disconnect, for example.
    • While UBOS is mandated to coordinate government-wide data collection, many stakeholders think the agency can do better as it has struggled to bring other agencies into the national statistical system (NSS).
    • No government agency is mandated to coordinate data management, and the void created means it is largely unattended to.
  • There is also a lack of harmony in donors' work in the vulnerability and resilience data ecosystem. Most donors operate in silos to gatekeep their priority areas and pursue the interests of their countries’ governments.
  • Uganda’s vulnerability and resilience data ecosystem faces a major financing problem. There is not enough funding for data activities, especially at the sub-national level. Much of the funding that does exist primarily comes from donors, with the two main consequences of this being that:
    • National interests are compromised as donors have a powerful say in what work is done; and
    • Sustainability is undermined as donor funding cycles are relatively short-term and can be susceptible to change.
  • Uganda has high-quality policies relevant to the vulnerability and resilience data ecosystem. Examples include the National Social Protection Policy (2015) and the National Action Plan III on Women, Peace and Security (2021−2025) (NAP). These provide proper guidance for clear targeting, delegate roles and responsibilities, include costs, and sections on monitoring and evaluation.
  • There is limited awareness among stakeholders of the existing policy frameworks for vulnerability and resilience data in Uganda. Interviewees had very little knowledge about what the policies aimed to achieve specifically, or of how it was proposed those aims would be achieved.