Data systems critical to devt — Govt Statistician

Government Statistician, Professor Samuel Kobina Anim, says governments need to invest more in data systems to generate enough data to help accelerate the country’s development process.


“I say this because as statisticians and economists, we know the value of data. “Note this, development cannot happen if you do not have data.

“So if you look at the whole process of policymaking, you need to start with a baseline figure, which is about numbers. For you to say that you've invested X amount of money and you are expecting Y returns, it's about numbers,” he said when he mounted the seat in the Executive Studios of the Graphic Communications Group Ltd for an interview on the topic: Data Insights for National Development”.

To back his call using facts, Prof. Anim referenced an international study which indicated that globally, for every $1 that is invested in a data system, it returns $32, and reiterated that “development can never happen if you don't have statistics from a numbers point of view.” 

Value chain

Based on this assertion, he indicated that it's not about the production of the data, the analysis of the data or the publishing of the data; instead, it is about the entire data value chain; right from conceptualisation in terms of what you want, to the data you want to produce. 

Prof. Anim said the issue is about producing the data, making sure that the data ends up in the policy document and more importantly, evaluating the policy target to ensure that “indeed, we have achieved not only the outputs of the policy intervention but the outputs, the outcome and again, more importantly, the impact. 

So it is that entire data value chain and our work as discussed service.”

He said the GSS has full control over the production side but added: “We have limited control over the construction of the data production. We have limited control over the conceptualisation because we do not make the policies and we don't develop for the development trajectories, therefore, we have limited control over its use. 

We also have limited control over the evaluation. So when we talk about data, we always need to look at the value chain.” 

Why so much data

Asked to explain why the GSS was pouring a lot of data into the system, he mentioned the successful conduct of the Population and National Census and said since that exercise, “we've taken advantage of that huge data that we have and are ensuring that at any point in time, we'll continue to contribute to the discourse on national development using the national population and our census data for that purpose. 

He said GSS has started tracking its publications annually so that as a service, it will use that as a measure of its progress.

“If it's anything social, it's anything economic, it's anything that is about the environment, whatever from A to Z, it is our mandate to ensure that we provide data on it to guide policymakers,” he added. 

He said it's the duty of the GSS, as a national statistical office, to follow through interventions and make sure that the government is on track, “and we distinguish between what we call statistical inputs and statistical outputs.” 

Corporates and data

Asked whether businesses and corporates in the private sector can also use the data churned out by the GSS, he replied in the affirmative, noting that there is a lot of information in the data that is produced, which can help in knowing, for instance, the demographics and the financial capacity of a people in a particular area.

He said the service was available to assist with data as required by the private sector, adding that the GSS has a generic one, which is free. However, should they require deeper insights or reports, it will have to come at a cost.

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