Experts to meet on Mobile Technologies for Data Collection and Statistics

Addis Ababa, 15 March 2014 (ECA) - The African Centre for Statistics (ACS) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in partnership with the secretariat of the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and Instituto Nacional de Estatística Cabo Verde (INECV), are organizing  a “Regional Workshop on the Use of  Mobile Technologies for Data Collection and Statistical Production in Africa.”

The workshop is scheduled to take place in Praia, Cape Verde, on 18-19 March 2014. The purpose of the workshop is to bring together African statistics producers, International Organizations and Private Sector actors to take stock of opportunities and limitations of using mobile technologies for data collection and statistical production in Africa. The workshop also seeks to gather and consolidate experiences for better understanding of how best to integrate such efforts into existing statistical structures.

Additionally, the workshop will also serve as a situation analysis for a United Nations Development Account (DA) Project on “Strengthening the capacity of African countries to use mobile technologies to collect data for effective policy and decision making.” Further, the Steering and Technical Advisory Committees for this project will be inaugurated during the workshop. The committees will also hold a joint meeting on 20 March, 2014, which will build on the country presentations from the workshop to decide on the pilot countries for the DA project and draw up the roadmap for the rest of the activities.

The objective of the DA project is to improve the capabilities of project countries to use mobile technology to make statistical data available and accessible to support their sustainable development agenda.

Most African national statistical systems use mostly manual, paper-based data collection methods for specialized surveys, which provide the bulk of statistical data, according to the project document. Paper-based methods involve printing of the paper questionnaires, transporting them across to the fieldworkers, and getting them back to a central location. The lengthy processes not only delay the production of data for decision making, but also require a lot of personnel for data collection and capture, thereby exacerbating the financial constraints. Due to these and other problems, computer assisted interviewing (CAI) methods are increasingly replacing pen-and-paper methods of survey data collection. The advantages of CAI methods include: automatic transfer of the survey to central database; automatic validity checks; automatic data cleaning, more control of question sequencing by the interviewer; easier to scale up (or down) and adapt for other surveys; more privacy due to the reduction in intermediate processing and cleaning, and concomitant reduction in operators involved.

Cape Verde was selected to host this workshop because of its established best practices in using mobile technologies for data collection, including the conduct of the 2010 census.

Over 70 statisticians and related professionals drawn from across African countries will participate at the workshop where they will share the experiences, challenges and best practices of the institutions they represent in the use of mobile technologies for data collection and statistical production.

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