One of the biggest concerns of Africans when it comes to democracy is how do we close the gap to make our governments more efficient compared to what exists in America, Europe and other parts of the globe. Taking a cue from the pandemic, we have closely seen how other countries were able to manage their situations with admiration and how the African continent lagged behind in even presenting accurate data on the number of cases they recorded.
For Africa, data is not scarce, but it is the way we have been able to utilise it that makes us lag behind. In my recommendation, African governments must take data analytics as a serious business and utilise it with the same energy other institutions make very good use of them. Data analytics has been simplified as a science that involves the analysation of raw data to make conclusions which helped in making informed decisions. In industries such as manufacturing, tourism, and hospitality, we have seen how companies have turned around their productivity levels by making good use of data and getting the information to improve how they deal with their customers.
Surprisingly, data analytics have been dated back to the building of Egypt’s pyramid, but we have only limited it to conducting census and planning activities, especially taxation. In a recent comment, governance champion and founder of the MO Ibrahim founder attributed Africa’s state in data analytics to weak and under-resourced statistical departments. In his speech, Mo Ibrahim stated, “Data is very important to manage daily life and policies, let alone pandemics. We need to strengthen our statistical offices”.
If businesses have been able to use data analytics to improve their customer service and build successful business models, what we have discovered in governments across the continent is that they have a storage of tonnes of data but are only not able to use them to make decisions to affect the lives of their people positively.
For African governments who want to improve their data management systems, data analytics would help them know more about their citizens, provide room for transparency, improve management of the system, save money and distribute development unbiasedly.
What has been missing in the African governance system, I guess is a question that should be on your mind now. The simple answer is data governance, which is getting the best insights from the data they already have by organising and managing them.
On the important things African governments should do, governments must first identify the important role data analytics will play in their success and invest in the right solutions and technologies that can be used to manage the data they collect. Private cloud services from Amazon are highly recommended and used by governments across the world but it is also important for them to investigate and evaluate the security of these technology platforms. In the UK, Michael Gove noted that the leveraging of data analytics is part of the agenda for state reconfiguration during his Ditchley Park speech in July 2020. Also in the US, investments in data analytics by the government are gathering speed and efforts being made by politicians are to play down people’s fears pointing to increased transparency and accountability.
At the end of the day, we would like to see the benefits of these investments governments put in collecting data. And for them to make effective use of it, they need to see the importance of data analytics and the influence it has on their citizens. We would recommend the appointment of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in various governments to play their roles in leading this needed revolution in our African governments. Because of the increasing importance of technology in every aspect of our lives, Chief Information Officers play the role of developing, managing and implementing information technology policies of an institution. The CIO can help governments develop data analytics policies that can aid the agenda of employing this technology to support the governments to succeed.
Conclusively, African countries don’t lack data, but what has been the missing link is how to utilise what they have and use it to improve the lives of their citizens. If Ghana’s number of channels of collecting biometric data on citizens have been recorded in multiples, then this should become a stepping stone for us to take the lead in utilising the information we have already stored.