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Ghana selected to harness data for monitoring SDGs

BY: Rosemary Ardayfio
Mr Omar Seidu speaking at the Nairobi  Summit on ICPD25
Mr Omar Seidu speaking at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25

Ghana is among eight countries selected globally by the United Nations (UN) to demonstrate the ability to harness timely data from all sources for monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The new initiative, ‘Data for Now’ launched by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Gueterres, is to be carried out within a year.

Mr Omar Seidu, Head, Demographic Statistics of the Ghana Statistical Service and Coordinator of Data for SDGs Ghana, who made this known, said the country was selected due to its success in making data available to inform decisions at every level.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic after he made a presentation on “Democratising data for SDGs” at the Nairobi Summit on International

Conference on Population and Development 25 (ICPD25), Mr Seidu said Ghana had demonstrated its ability to strengthen administrative data systems to provide data at the lowest level of governance in the country.

Ghana, he said, recognised the need for data at the lowest level of governance to inform policy and was taking steps to create the legal and institutional environment necessary to access data at that level.

“One of the reasons Ghana is seen as a leader is because it is strengthening the building blocks for sustainable development data globally,” Mr Seidu stated.

He said the country was doing this through partnerships that bring researchers, data infrastructure and the needed capacity together for the production and utilisation of data.

Ghana, Mr Seidu further said, was also exploring the huge data that existed from different producers and users of data to follow through the SDGs to find who was being left behind and their needs to accelerate action.

District statisticians

Following the November 2016, Local Government Act 936, which provides for the establishment of district statistical departments to be an integral part of the district assembly, district statisticians have been recruited for all the 254 districts.

“Their principal role is to collate district level information from all departments and make it centrally available to the district,” Mr Seidu said, adding that currently Ghana was co-creating a data quality assurance framework to guide production of quality statistics.

The benefit, he explained, was that data exchange would be easier, mistrust across different data producers would be drastically reduced and more data would be openly available.

He disclosed that ‘Statistics Denmark’ will be supporting Ghana to strengthen its administrative data systems.

“If we get it right by the next 20 years, we might not need to conduct a census,” he indicated

Democratising data

Making his presentation, Mr Seidu pointed out that “data itself is a public good, but not when locked up, not easily available for people who need to use it.”

He cautioned however that there was the need to be sensitive to issues of privacy when making data accessible.

Another way of democratising data, Mr Seidu said, was to build trust among all data producing agencies and institutions, including civil society organisations, academia and the private sector.

Geo-spatial information

The Director-General of the National Planning Commission, Malawi, Dr Thomas Munthali, emphasised the importance of integrating statistical and geo spatial information to locate “those left behind.”

Discussing the topic “Mapping geo-spatial access to SRH services,” Dr Munthali said that with proper data and proper geo-spatial expertise so much could be done from the planning perspective.

He noted however that countries needed capacity and the expertise to identify those who had been left behind in the development process.

Disaggregated data

The Chairperson of the Higher Population Council of Jordan, Ms Abla Amavi, who spoke on the topic, “Integrating the SDGs into sub national planning and budgeting frameworks”, reiterated that democratising data was good as it enabled data to be used for the public good.

She, however, noted that disaggregated data was difficult to find at the local level, making access to data for social transformation a challenge.

This is worsened by the challenge of privacy, as a result of which data continues to be locked up.