South Africa’s Statistician-General, Dr Pali Lehohla, says data collection such as the census has improved government response to socio-economic realities of citizens.

He said this when addressing inaugural World Data Forum in Cape Town on Monday. The four-day forum, which began on Sunday, sees international data experts discussing, among other matters, ways of using data to assist governments globally in addressing service delivery issues.

The conference, organized by the UN and South Africa, aims to improve the lives of people by using data to promote sustainable development.

Dr Lehohla says his organization is responsible for ensuring information collection reaches the South African government to influence policy making. The last Census in 2011 found that 84 per cent of South Africans had access to safe drinking water, while almost two thirds had their refuse removed twice a week.

However, when it comes to piped water inside their dwellings, the figure drops to 44 per cent of households countrywide.

Lehohla said service delivery protests witnessed in the country were not surprising, based on data which reflected service delivery challenges. He noted that worldwide, data collection was lacking, with the problem being particularly noteworthy in Africa as a result of lack of resources.

Lehohla said there had been progress, but challenges remained. “Utilisation, particularly by governments is somewhat lacking, it’s not adequate, worse so on the African continent.”

“I think in South Africa, one of the things that really worries me is how data is used. Perhaps it is a problem of us as statisticians failing to make data available, and visible to communities. In South Africa, we have started making sure that data reaches policy; it is discussed in policy.”

The United Nations says accurate statistics play a vital role in the development of a country and its economy.

The UN Director of Statistics, Stefan Schweinfest, says the global migrant crisis which has seen millions of people displaced, is a new challenge facing data collection.

He says there needs to be a partnership between the public and private sectors to use phone data which could assist in studying and responding to this phenomenon.

“The refugee and migrant situations that translate into new policy challenges and this translates into data challenges because we want to understand what is happening. “So we have to track people and one mode of doing this is by looking at their mobile phones and that information has not yet been harnessed for official policy decision making.”


You May Also Like