Coordinating 24 countries for the pilot edition of the Global Data Barometer, the Local Development Research Institute (LDRI) is the regional hub for Sub-Saharan Africa. The non-profit organisation was launched in 2015 and their work contributes to ending extreme poverty, hunger, and reducing inequalities. The Global Data Barometer research is coordinated through LDRI’s Africa Open Data Network (AODN) Program which focuses on the use of (open) data to drive Africa’s development agenda.
The Africa Open Data Network implements programs and conducts research on effective and efficient models, tools, approaches and or policies to support the generation, sharing and use of data and evidence to support socio-economic development initiatives across Sub-Saharan Africa. This includes research on among other thematic areas the availability of gender data, agriculture data, open data policies, open and responsive governance; public sector capacity strengthening initiatives; development of data products such as open data dashboards, advocacy on data for development and convening multi stakeholder spaces on the use of data and evidence for decision making in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Linet Juma, a Program Officer at LDRI and AODN’s Program Lead who is coordinating the Sub-Saharan Africa GDB hub shared more about their work.
On working with the GDB
Q: Which components of the GDB pilot edition are you looking forward to?
The first thing is the publication of a case study library with use cases. When we collaborate with partners they are often curious about where other data or open data initiatives are being implemented and what they can learn from them. It is sometimes difficult to point out and locate examples, especially across Sub-Saharan Africa. This is an opportunity to see what other countries and sectors are doing and what can be learned from them.
We are also looking forward to the sectoral analysis. I am sure there are a lot of lessons there and opportunities for cross-sector learning and for stakeholders to identify potential entry points that they could work to support. The GDB also built inclusion and marginalisation into its design and through indicators which will help stakeholders understand how these are manifesting themselves to ensure no one is left behind.
Making a difference in Africa
Q: One of your goals is to support African countries in ending hunger, poverty, and reducing inequality. How does open data or working with data for the public good organisations assist you in this?
The way we have always made that connection, especially with AODN, is to think about (open) data as being a critical ingredient in the chain towards making informed decisions that drive inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development. If you’re going to make decisions about ending hunger, poverty, and reducing inequality, it’s impossible for you to do that without understanding the context and data helps you do that. Open data goes the extra mile to ensure more people can access and use shared data which in turn ensures that there can be more informed concerted efforts to address development challenges.
Q: What are some of the data-related projects you have worked on that have made contributions to the work that you do?
Data and evidence use for decision making is built into all of LDRI’s programming. Under AODN, we have done a lot of research around gender data, open agriculture data, open data policies and open and responsive governments. In 2018-2019, we published a report and data on the state of gender open data that looked at the availability of open gender data across 19 Anglophone African countries, for SDGs 1 to 5.
We also worked on a model open data policy in 2019. This is meant to provide a guide or a framework that countries, sub-national governments, institutions, and other stakeholders can use as a starting point when developing open data policies. This was born out of the realisation that there is a big gap when it comes to legal frameworks that anchor the implementation of open data initiatives across Sub Saharan Africa. Jurisdictions rely heavily on access to information or right to information frameworks, where they exist, to underpin open data initiatives. These however do not fully articulate the concept and tenets of open data. A case in point would be when a government publishes a report on its website; they may be meeting access to information requirements, but not open data requirements based on multiple factors such as licensing.
We also implement multiple initiatives aimed at capacity strengthening for public sector partners. We do this through tailored capacity strengthening for public sector partners across Sub-Saharan Africa on data and evidence for decision making through the Africa Open Data Fellowship. We are currently implementing the second phase of the fellowship supporting partners in Kenya, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. We also support governments (national and sub-national) in developing and implementing Open Government Partnership (OGP) commitments.
These are but a few examples but a few other publications from us include; Understanding the Impact of Covid-19 on CSOs in Data Ecosystems Across Sub-Saharan Africa, From Plans to Actions: How CSOs Support the OGP Process in Kenya, The Big Data in Africa Report, and the Drivers of Data for Development in Africa Report.
Q: One of your initiatives is the Africa Open Data Fellows programme. How does it work and what type of impact are you hoping to make with this project?
The Africa Open Data Fellowship is one of our flagship projects. The project has 4 components. The first component is the provision of tailored technical assistance to public sector partners across Sub-Saharan Africa, where we second a fellow to support and build the partner’s capacity on data and evidence for decision making. This helps us curate a response that is relevant to that ministry department or agency, as opposed to a one size fits all approach. The second component is the research component through which we generate cutting edge research on strengthening the data and evidence for decision making landscape across Sub-Saharan Africa. The third is the development of data tools, products manuals or guidelines and the fourth is advocacy on data and evidence for decision making. We implemented the first phase of the fellowship in 2019-2020, where we supported partners in Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. In Kenya, we worked with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Co-operatives to develop an open agriculture data portal, and the Commission on Administrative Justice in conjunction with the Kenya School of Government to develop an Access to Information Curriculum for government officials which includes an open data module; in Rwanda, we supported efforts to transition an Agriculture Information Management System into government; in Ethiopia, we worked with relevant authorities to explore how to revive the national open data initiative; and in Sierra Leone we explored and provided recommendations on how to improve the legal framework to support the effective implementation of access to information and open data initiatives.
In the current phase, we are supporting the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) in Nigeria, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Co-operatives in Kenya, the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) in Sierra Leone. We will also be publishing a report that will explore how to strengthen data access and use to respond to increasingly interconnected development challenges, especially those facing women and girls, at the nexus of agriculture, nutrition, energy access and climate change across Sub-Saharan Africa. The fellowship is also developing a data capacity diagnostic tool to help stakeholders identify data capacity gaps and how they can address them.
Data communication at the grassroots level
Q: What channels are in place to ensure that data eventually reaches the people at grassroots levels and does not only trickle down to people in towns or urbans areas?
As an organization, we recognize the importance of ensuring that data and information is accessed and used by grassroots communities. Through our Village Based Advisor (VBA) Program in Kenya, we collect, share, use and support grassroots communities to use agriculture data to inform and improve their agricultural practices such as identifying the implements that would be the most effective within their localities.
With AODN, we convene multi-stakeholder spaces including one on one sessions, which are more virtual due to COVID-19, within sub-national jurisdictions, hold webinars, and use communication channels where we can reach out to grassroots communities. Our work also explores potential models to improve data access and use by grassroot communities. There’s definitely still a gap on this and therefore a lot to be done to improve it.