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Africa-wide data platform allows citizens to hold governments to account

Source: Fri, 16 Aug 2013 10:41 AM
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Vegetable vendors wait for customers at a market outside Harare August 1, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Africa has joined the data revolution, allowing citizens to access up-to-date statistics on poverty, gender inequality, food security or climate change across the continent's 54 countries with just a click of a mouse and to convert the data into maps and graphs.

The initiative is part of a global drive for transparent and easily accessible data as a way to combat corruption and hold governments to account for how they spend taxpayers’ money. 

The Africa Development Bank (AfDB) in July completed its Open Data Platform, which links live data from national statistics offices, central banks and ministries in all African countries with users and international development organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The platform will allow national, regional and international groups to track development progress on projects such as the Millenium Development Goals, agreed by the United Nations for reducing poverty and improving the quality of life worldwide. The platform allows users to look at different indicators over a set period of time, use templates to create visuals and share their work with others.    

“The AfDB initiative is expected to revolutionise the collection, analysis and sharing of information on Africa and so bring the continent to the forefront of the global information economy,” the bank said in a statement.

Anti-poverty group ONE praised the initiative, saying it “presents AfDB with a unique opportunity to take the lead in tackling the crippling effects of inadequate data.” 

The United Nations has called on countries to enhance the quality of their data collection as a vital tool in addressing development needs. Forty-seven countries worldwide – including founding members the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Philippines, Mexico and Norway – have joined the Open Government Partnership, which seeks to increase online access to data and information about government as a way to empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.  

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