Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, October 14, 2020 (ECA) – The seventh meeting of the Statistical Commission for Africa (StatCom7) continued Wednesday with participants emphasizing that big data must be embraced by national statistical offices’ work plans, along with new data collecting and processing technology.
This would be key to the continent’s efforts to effectively measure, evaluate and formulate the right public policies.
Big data is positively impacting sectors such as banking, health, military intelligence, aviation and space science the world over and embracing it would be a game changer for the continent, the participants agreed.
They also agreed that it was imperative, therefore, for national statistical offices to collaborate with partners, including academia and the private sector who have the capacity, skills and tools to manage huge data sets gathered from different sources.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to do business differently in the data economy. We urge partners to support regional efforts in building not only sustainable but also resilient statistical systems on the continent,” said Oliver Chinganya, Director of the Africa Statistics Centre (ACS) at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
Mr. Chinganya steered the meeting together with the Chair of the Bureau of StatCom Africa, Ms. Albina Chuwa, who is also the Director General of Tanzania’s National Bureau for Statistics.
Various presentations by member States, UN and private sector representatives highlighted Africa’s big data hub that will be hosted by Rwanda; the Global Working Group that explores the benefits and challenges of the use of big data for official statistics and compilation of sustainable development goal (SDG) indicators; Africa’s SDG data gateway; African Development Bank’s initiatives on big data and innovation; and the private sector's experience with big data on the continent.
Ronald Jansen, Assistant Director of the United Nations Statistics Division, emphasized the need to build capacity in Africa was crucial for big data use in official statistics. He called on national statistical offices to share ideas that can make Africa’s data hub in Kigali as dynamic as possible so all African nations can benefit the most.
Yusuf Murangwa, Chief of Rwanda’s National Institute of Statistics, said the establishment of the data hub will ensure Africa is not left behind in the data revolution.
Edlam Yemeru, Chief of the ECA’s Urbanization and Development Section, urged African leaders to reaffirm the criticality of strengthening urban data and statistics through national statistics development systems and processes.
She called on member States to improve city and urban disaggregation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and African Union’s Agenda 2063 indicators through national statistical development systems.
“The ECA will to continue to provide technical assistance to member States in strengthening urban data and statistics guided by the core working group,” said Ms. Yemeru.
Africa’s big data hub, the participants agreed, will boost knowledge sharing among member States and information extraction from complex data sets.
They agreed that capacity on data science and big data in national statistical offices remained limited on the continent raising the need for support from development partners to ensure big data informs the formulation of effective policies in Africa.
“Without sufficient capacity being built, there would be no uptake for all these initiatives. We will need as national statistical agencies a lot of reliance on other sources of data going forward since our reach to our respondents would be limited not only by COVID-19 but also by the post-COVID society,” said Risenga Maluleke, South Africa’s Statistician-General.
He added: “We need to find ways and platforms through which we can share experiences and readily be accessible so that we are able to move a lot more faster.”
The hub will enable the continent to access and analyse timely data relating to SDGs for evidence-based decision making.
“We must use data to make sure that we identify those most left behind,” said Ms. Chuwa, adding national statistical offices face the urgent need to adapt and continue playing their critical role in harnessing data.
Participants discussed ways to devise innovative statistical solutions to strengthen Africa's national statistical systems with a view to keeping decision-makers informed of economic, social and environmental developments in real time.
The meeting is being held under the theme; “Developing regional solutions to enhance the resilience of African national statistical systems to meet the need for data during the Decade of Action in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
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