ADDIS ABABA – A new initiative to strengthen Africa’s data ecosystems in the face of COVID-19 unvailed on Saturday by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD).
“Tackling the pandemic requires data and information to ensure that policies, resources and technology are deployed in the right place and time to make the biggest possible impact,” said Vera Songwe, ECA Executive Secretary, on Saturday.
Songwe noted, however, that data systems for health and other areas of policy in Africa are often fragile and frequently inadequate.
“Critical gaps in coverage and timeliness can leave governments uncertain of where the risks of infection are highest and how to deploy resources in the most effective way, as well as where food aid is needed the most in particular for women and children” she added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold suffering, disrupted billions of lives, and endangered the global economy.
Wealthy countries have been worst affected thus far, but as the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data’s CEO, Claire Melamed, explains, the vulnerability of low-income countries is more alarming.
“The lack of adequate shelter, sanitation, and health systems in low and lower-middle-income countries puts us at the precipice of the worst humanitarian crisis in 100 years. Getting timely, accurate data to get the pandemic under control in Africa is critical for the success of global efforts, and will help build strong data systems for the long term,” said Melamed.
Over the past few years, development partners have helped to build the foundations of robust data ecosystems that can respond to crises like this.
As a result, there are multitudes of tested, scalable solutions that can be deployed, and a range of institutions contributing to data-driven decision-making that can expedite the fight against COVID-19.
Areas where better data can save lives during COVID-19 include: population – understanding who is most at risk, to allocate resources effectively; health infrastructure and staffing; virus monitoring; and tracking the economic impacts, including business closures, the impact on agricultural production, and on trade and public spending, to put in place the right support and avoid long-term devastation.
The ECA-GPSDD partnership will receive capacity support from Data for Now, a coalition of partners that includes UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the World Bank along with GPSDD.
The group will work in a coordinated and coherent manner to put tested solutions to work, strengthen systems by ensuring new solutions are sustainable and can be maintained for the long-term by increasing interoperability between data sets and developing capacity among users to understand and work with data for policymaking.
They also work to increase the effective use of resources by targeting areas where data gaps are most acute and minimize duplication and share learning and information among partners and countries for quick adoption and replication of effective solutions, among others.