Yesterday, bold commitments to use data and technology to improve lives and livelihoods were made at a High-Level convening of African leaders, in Nairobi Kenya.
The UK’s High Commissioner to Kenya, Nic Hailey was one of the speakers at the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, where the Governments of Kenya and Sierra Leone, and Safaricom were hosting the two-day ‘Data for Development in Africa’ meeting, in collaboration with the African Development Bank, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and the Governments of Ghana, Senegal, and Tanzania.
Addressing attendees, Mr Hailey spoke about the value of data for Africa adding that Kenya is at the forefront of the African data revolution, but that more needs to be done.
He added that partners need to capitalise on digital developments to access more data and use this to impact on people’s lives.
At the event, African countries made commitments in the fields of: business, agriculture, civil registration, health, migration, and data capacity.
Opening the high-level meeting, Kenya’s Deputy President H.E. William Samoei Ruto, said: “I am honored to gather with African governments and businesses, charities and researchers, taking the lead in harnessing the power of technology and innovation to advance our development agenda. We are a forward-looking region, which requires timely, accessible and accurate data for the informational aspects of our decision-making. With ‘Data for Development in Africa’ we are signaling our intent to lead other developing economies to secure better futures and leave no one behind.”
Kenya announced it will champion the development of an Intergovernmental Network on Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition, that will nurture an inclusive multi-stakeholder ecosystem to boost capacity of small scale farmers to use data to improve productivity, increase youth engagement in agri-business and strengthen capacities of statistical departments in Ministries of Agriculture by increasing financial allocations and human capacity.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and Kenya’s budding data lab at Strathmore University to provide real-time information on crop types, agricultural insurance, and weather.
Through the Ministry of Health, Kenya will also champion the use of data, technology and innovation to accelerate progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in support of the broader attainment of the SDGs. The Government will engage private sector partners to improve registration of births in hard-to-reach communities.
Currently over one third of births in Eastern and Southern Africa remain unregistered, severely limiting life chances. Targeted approaches include the strengthening of the SDGs Partnership Platform convened by the United Nations in Kenya.
Philips and Unilever will include other private sector players such as Safaricom to enhance connectivity to improve information flow and data collection with new technology. Royal Philips will build a Community Life Center that leverages on the data revolution to improve access to primary health care, monitor CVRS related indicators and a site for capacity building and training opportunities for nurses and traditional birth attendants.
The Government of Kenya commits to work with other African Countries to build a similar SDG 3 Platform.
Data Science Hubs
Several African Data Science Hubs were also announced to shore up progress, increase technical capacity and coordination across the continent and to enable insights from data science to be used by countries to provide information to government for achieving and monitoring the SDGs.
Connections with private sector and other partners will boost capacity across the network.
Among these partners are The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Kenya’s Strathmore University and the UK’s Office for National Statistics and Department for International Development (DFID) will manage regional links, scaling up partner countries and supporting National Statistical Offices in their quality assurance role.
Kenya’s Strathmore University announced their Africa Media Hub which will house a data center in collaboration with Oracle to provide cloud services and data analytics capability for the Kenyan Data Ecosystem. The hub will further integrate a Data Lab that will provide space for ideations and co-creation of data-driven solutions that address real problems in the public sector. This will partner with line ministries, County Governments and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
The UK Office for National Statistics and DFID will provide funding and support to strengthen strategic leadership and data science capacity in National Statistical Offices in the region. Both British agencies will work with UNECA in supporting Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and other countries.
During the closing remarks, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data’s Executive Director Claire Melamed praised the hard work undertaken to secure political commitments: “The data revolution has come of age,” she said, “At a time when governments worldwide are under increasing pressure caused by migration, climate change, and increasing inequality, African countries are leading by example, mainstreaming innovations in a way that will benefit millions of people across the continent.”
Data for Development in Africa was also hailed a success by private sector partners. Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said: ‘I am proud to represent a growing movement of African enterprises who see social as well as economic value in data.’
Donors that made ‘Data for Development in Africa’ possible included: Children’s Investment Fund, Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Safaricom, Strathmore University, UK Government, and US Government.