“We need to find ways to persuade private citizens to collect data and we also have to find ways to allow people to use the data that is already available,” concluded Mr. Dozie Ezigbalike , the Chief of the Data Technology Section of the African Centre for Statistics at the Economic Commission for Africa during the closing of the conference ‘Use of mobile technology for statistical processes’.
Mr. Ezigbalike encouraged participants to negotiate with their respective governments and lawmakers to open the available data for dissemination and use. Mr. Ezigbalike believes declassifying of data will allow for a generation of new business ideas and innovations. He illustrated by pointing to the ‘freeing-up’ of the Global Positioning System as one of the actions that resulted in new ideas in the digital technology industry; ideas which benefit communities such as improvement in response time to emergencies through using tracking and GPS technologies.
The increasing use of mobile digital devices has led to a massive growth in the amount of data the continent generates, leading to requirements for collaboration on data sharing, quality control, data exchange protocols and systems and standardization.
ECA’s concept of “citizen as a data collector” forms a large part of the strategy to improve data collection in Africa. ECA therefore spurs member states to develop new modes of citizen engagement, as well as new avenues for research and creativity.
The conference participants shared results of case studies from Cameroon, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Kenya, Tunisia and Zimbabwe on topics such as broader potential of mobile technology across sectors, cost-benefits consideration, hardware limitations and improvements.
The participants are unanimous that “using mobile technology for data collection is the way to go”. However recognising the limitations, they also see the great potential in employing mobile decides in analysis and dissemination as well.
“This technology can assist Africa to cope with the demands for data for the Sustainable Development Goals,” said a delegate from Kenya.
Mr. Irongo Houghton, the conference moderator summarised the proceedings by asking that “Africans own the process through building  an infrastructure that isn’t only technology but institutional structures as well to address standards, interchangeable systems”.
Some delegates proposed that a vision for the use of this technology for data collection must be drafted. They would also like to create a knowledge-sharing platform as well as a handbook on how best to use mobile devices for data processes.