Africa's first "one-stop" data centre, the Africa Information Highway, was officially launched on Monday, February 24 in Pretoria, South Africa, by the African Development Bank.
The launch event, which included a live demonstration of the Africa Information Highway, was held at the Bank's Southern Africa Resource Center and was jointly hosted by the AfDB's Chief Economist and Vice-President, Mthuli Ncube, and the Statistician-General of Statistics South Africa, Pali Lehohla.
Conceptualized and developed by the African Development Bank'sStatistics Department, the Africa Information Highway (AIH) is a revolutionary data management and dissemination platform that will impact how data is collected, stored and ultimately used by anyone who accesses it.
This cross-beneficiary platform was launched before a diverse audience that included leading South African academic and research institutions, government officials, private sector agencies, financial and economic analysts, business chambers, multilateral development partners, as well as representatives from the media.
Addressing the audience, the AfDB's Chief Economist and Vice-President, Mthuli Ncube, thanked all present and expressed his excitement at sharing the Africa Information Highway and showcasing, through the live demonstration, the multiple benefits to all stakeholders seeking data on Africa. "The real value of data lies in its usability. This means that it must be readily available, timely, relevant and accurate," he said.
"Official statistics is a public good, financed from government funds and it is logical that it is made free to all users. There is an increasing call for data to be 'open' and the Bank has opened up its own data and is supporting African countries to install Open Data systems. Using the Africa Information Highway, users can now access a wide range of development data from all 54 African countries."
Pali Lehohla of Statistics South Africa expressed his gratitude to the African Development Bank and in particular the Statistics Department, the driver behind the development of the Africa Information Highway platform. He shared the great strides that have been made in data collection and access. "In the past the only way to access information was through a country census and this was not always readily available or shared. Angola is a case in point, where, through the efforts of the African Development Bank and other partners, the country has been able to undertake a population census in 2013, more than 40 years after its last census, providing the basic data to track the country's development." Lehohla urged all present to access the Open Data system and start benefiting from the portal.
The AIH was developed with the overall objective to significantly increase public access to official and other statistics across Africa, while at the same time provide support to African countries to improve data quality, management and dissemination. The AIH also responds to the AfDB's own demand for timely data, in order to monitor the development impact of the Bank's interventions on the continent.
"There can be no doubt that data will be the cornerstone of the post-2015 development agenda," Ncube said. "And this will mean prioritizing data which is collected in order to ensure that it is relevant and meets the needs of the users, while at the same time building country capacity to collect good data in a sustainable way, and ensuring that the data is widely available and informs public policy. Better data implies investment in statistical capacity building, which is something that the Bank is doing through our grants as part of our regional Statistical Capacity Building Program. We are working with our partners to further leverage and mobilize additional resources from their donors to further build capacity.
"The AIH platform provides a platform to improve data dissemination in African countries, at a sub-regional and regional level," Ncube said. "Africa is taking the lead, using the SDMX [Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange] platform for facilitating data collection and exchange. Going forward, the Electronic Government Data Portal, eGovDP, will link together portals from multiple ministries and agencies into one seamless one-stop network, providing quick access by government officials for key decision and policy-making."
The Africa Information Highway will be launched regionally in Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya and other selected countries in the coming months.
About the Africa Information Highway (AIH):
The Africa Information Highway (AIH) was developed by the Statistics Department of the African Development Bank in response to data access challenges being faced by governments, policy-makers, research institutions, private-sector organizations, analysts, academia and ordinary African citizens.
Launched in November 2012, the Africa Information Highway's overall objective is to significantly increase public access to official data and other statistics across Africa, whilst at the same time supporting African countries to improve data quality, management, and dissemination. The AIH also responds to the AfDB's own demand for timely data to monitor the development impact of its interventions on the continent and to ensure that these are in line with the Bank's Ten Year Strategy for 2013-2022.
The AIH aims to significantly increase access to quality data for managing and monitoring development results in African countries; including tracking progress on the MDGs, as well as meeting the data needs for the post-2015 development agenda.