As Nigerian citizens strive to get more involved in the country’s governance process, forward-thinking individuals and organisations are beginning to harness social media and especially Twitter to create platforms that garner and provide the information they need to shape the country’s development discourse and articulate their aspirations. One such new platform is the @StatisticsNG initiative, which has backward and forward linkages and bearings on the @PolicyNG endeavour (which I wrote about here: https://raymondeyo.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/policyng-a-repository-for-nigerias-policy-discourse/), as its stated objective, to “chart up development statistics” to support to latter, says.

Mariéme Jamme (@mjamme), the founder and chief executive of SpotOne Global Solutions, who featured in howwemadeitinafrica.com’s recent listing of “ten African business leaders and thinkers to follow on Twitter”, says: “Data and accurate stats are key to Africa’s development.”

Also, whilst decrying the lapses of the 2006 census exercise at a media function on August 5, 2013, Festus Odimegwu, the chairman of Nigeria’s Population Commission, said: “We must make Nigeria work. We cannot do that unless we know the statistics. We cannot build infrastructure without data. We must have organised data before we can plan.”

Similarly, the prominent pan-African magazine, New African, reported in its January 2013 issue that “Dr Carlos Lopes (@ECA_Lopes), the [recently appointed] Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA, @ECA_Official) wants the [institution] to be at the forefront of providing the data and in-depth research that can lead to better decision-making and policy direction. That means providing accurate statistics, something that has been notably lacking in Africa for many years.” Dr Lopes himself was quoted in that report as saying “How can you devise policy based on unrealistic data and projections? This ‘statistical gap’ has a clear [negative] economic impact.”

In suggesting the way forward for the garnering of accurate statistics in Africa, New African again said: “Dr Lopes believes the capture of better economic statistics should be done using modern technologies.” Thankfully, as an IT-compliant platform, it is expected that @StatisticsNG would not be found wanting in this important respect.

It must be understood that the role of data and statistics in development is so crucial that it should not be left in the hands of government agencies, like the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) or the Ministry of National Planning, alone. The increasing contribution of private entities to critical aspects of governance, via Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements, for instance, cannot be gainsaid. Therefore, the @StatisticsNG initiative is a plausible one which should be encouraged and patronized especially by Nigeria’s development stakeholders.

In addition, the timing of the coming on board of @StatisticsNG couldn’t be more apposite! This is because the initiative has been born at a time when there is serious talk and increasing focus on a Nigeria beyond oil which implies paying very close attention to other hugely important sectors such as agriculture, industries, solid minerals and tourism and these are sectors that cannot be maximised without sufficient and accurate data and statistics.

Some Nigerians worry that the country’s leaders don’t do effective planning and as such, naively conclude that investing effort and resources on producing quality data and statistics may not be very useful. In fact, I had a recent tweet-chat with one John Kwaghngu (@DoshimaJohn) and he said: “Planning is alien to us. So tell me how statistics matters to such a nation.” This is wrong! Even if Nigeria’s present leaders don’t plan effectively, that doesn’t take anything away from the usefulness of such data and statistics. In fact, even if our leaders don’t fully value and/or use development data and stats, investors and potential investors use them to determine and plan their investment. Besides, stats and data are very useful for academic research purposes and they will also help to furnish future leaders with the knowledge they need to make smart and sound policy choices and decisions.

That a major institution like the World Bank’s Africa office (@WorldBankAfrica) follows its work on Twitter is an indication that @StatisticsNG is already striking the right chords and attracting important stakeholder attention.

Ultimately, @StatisticsNG will have to go beyond Twitter and social media to doing effective work on the field and putting its findings in the public domain. In the above regard, I suggest that @StatisticsNG undertakes a partnership with an institution like UNECA especially given that its Executive Secretary, Carlos Lopes, is passionate about improving data collection on the continent. Indeed, Lopes says “I would like UNECA to be the innovator in introducing mobile technology for data collection [in Africa].” @StatisticsNG will do well to leverage such a partnership to better improve its technical capacity on the field in order to boost efficiency.

As a postgraduate student of Development Studies and one with great interest and aspirations in public policy formulation and execution, who certainly understands the great value of statistics in the same, I enthusiastically welcome the bold initiative that @StatisticsNG is, and look forward to learning so much through it.

It takes wisdom and passion to create a platform like @StatisticsNG. It will take even more wisdom and greater passion to sustain it and ensure that it remains objective and credible. I wish the initiators and sponsors of the project very fruitful times ahead. Long live @StatisticsNG! GOD bless Nigeria!

Raymond is on Twitter at @Raymond_Eyo



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