RECTOR'S SPEECH TO THE AFRICAN STATISTICS DAY
Honorable Guest of Honour,
Coordinator of National Statistical System (Mainland and Zanzibar)
NBS Mgt and Staff
EASTC Mngt, Staff and Students
Ladies and Gentlemen: Protocol Observed
Honorable Guest of Honor and Dear Participants,
I would like, on behalf of the Eastern Africa Statistical Training Centre (EASTC), first of all to welcome you all to this Centre, and kindly feel at home to celebrate and enjoy the African Statistics Day in the premises where statistical training is our business! It is a day which is celebrated every year to increase public awareness of the important role that statistics play in all aspects of social and economic life in Africa and in preserving the environment in which people live.
It is therefore a pleasure to us at EASTC to welcome you and celebrate with us the African Statistics Day. There are a number of reasons for us to say that. I will mention only three important ones.
The first reason is that this year 2015 EASTC is celebrating its 50th anniversary; and therefore, EASTC being the only African regional institution that train Official Statisticians, has a cause to be happy to celebrate the African Statistics day on this very place where future African official statisticians are being prepared.
The second reason is that EASTC is becoming more and more known on the continent of Africa. We hope that celebrating the African Statistics Day at EASTC will enhance the Centre’s publicity, so much so that, we hope, more and more African countries will be sending their students to come and study here at EASTC.
The last reason, certainly not the least, is the fact that the African Statistics Day is being celebrated here when EASTC is now enrolling PhD candidates when the Data Revolution in Africa is gaining momentum. For that reason, the theme of the African Statistics Day, i.e. Better data for better lives: Harnessing modern technology to enhance national statistical systems is indeed a challenging call to both EASTC and PhD candidates to take seriously the role of modern technology in advanced studies so as to ensure that national statistical systems in Africa are led and managed by statisticians who have cutting-edge IT skills and competences. It is only in this way that we can be sure that the data revolution in Africa will establish the habit of producing, disseminating and using highly quality data for better lives.
Let me now dwell on the theme of the Day. I would like to share with you some reflections on the theme. The implications of the theme to an Official Statistics training centre like EASTC cannot be over emphasized. The theme for this year’s event is “Better data for better lives: Harnessing modern technology to enhance national statistical systems”. Those of you who follow international statistical affairs will recall that the theme has been aligned with the theme of World Statistics Day, which was held on 20 October 2015 world wide and at EASTC concurrently. The theme focuses on data quality and enhancing the capacity-building of national statistical systems in Africa.
The first aspect of the theme is the need for better data. It should be very clear that without high quality data policymakers cannot formulate, monitor and evaluate policies, effectively and efficiently, in order to raise the living standards of peoples. But how and where is quality data made available? It is the critical role of the national statistical systems to generate statistics needed for decision-making. It is in this process of generating quality statistics that technologies are required, as well as strengthening the national statistical systems. New technologies and strengthened national statistical systems are therefore able to assist the development of informed policies and allow decision makers to take better, evidence-based decisions that positively impact people’s welfare and eventually result in better lives. The importance of long-term capacity building for Official Statisticians cannot be ignored.
It is beyond doubt that in developing countries, including African countries, the invaluable role of modern technology in supporting national statistical systems is evident, as documented in most of the pilot studies carried out in the recent years, both in terms of more effective and efficient practices in statistical data production and in terms of disseminating statistical products. I therefore believe that all of us here will take seriously the development of statistical computing skills seriously, even if it means enhancing those skills privately, if it is not by enrolling for short or long term training at EASTC.
Let me now go to the second aspect of the theme. It is about what has come to be known as the ‘digital divide’. In short, the phrase ‘digital divide’ simply means the technological gap between developing and developed countries. The developing world in general still lags behind in ICT adoption. According to the 2014 ICT Development Index published by the International Telecommunication Union, the top 30 countries in the rankings are mostly high-income countries. However, given that information and communications technology (ICT) is evolving, remarkably quickly in Africa, sometimes even on a daily basis, the digital divide is gradually decreasing. One of the efforts, therefore, in enhancing the capacity of African National Statistical Systems, will be to bridge the global digital divide to enable Africa to meet the seventeen sustainable development goals. It is, therefore, imperative for African countries to adopt widely and harness modern technology to accelerate the bridging of both the global digital divide and at the same time the digital divide that exists between urban and rural areas in the African region, to ensure that the proposed sustainable development goals are met. For this to happen we need graduates of Official Statistics to be competent in computing skills.
The use of modern technology in improving data collection, processing, analysis and dissemination is another key aspect of the African Statistics Day for this year. Until today, most African statistical systems rely primarily on manual collection of data using paper-based survey forms. However, we all know that this traditional method of data collection is costly, time-consuming, and prone to errors. For that reason, the timely deliverance of high-quality data is one of the major challenges facing statistical development in Africa. All over the world, the usage of mobile devices and the Internet is beginning to replace traditional methods of data collection and dissemination. Therefore, national statistical systems in Africa should take advantage of modern technology to improve production and dissemination of timely and high-quality data. One example of such technology is geospatial technology. This technology is an efficient and effective tool for conducting censuses and surveys, because it has desirable features with regard to data collection, storing, processing, timeliness, coverage and dissemination. In Africa, fortunately, the usage of geospatial technology has increased significantly. Owing to the geographic nature of most census data, satellite imagery and maps are enhancing the methodology for conducting censuses and surveys in data collection and data dissemination. For instance, maps enhance data collection by capturing and visualizing the locations. Geospatial technology also plays a critical role in the collection of different thematic data, such as agricultural, demographic, forestry, urban and rural planning statistics.
Let us now look at the last aspect of the theme, namely the way modern technology can enhance national statistical systems to ensure better data.
National statistical systems in Africa can be developed and maintained more effectively and efficiently through appropriate human and ICT infrastructure. To ensure that this takes place, national, regional and international investment will have to accelerate the overall development process in Africa. It is therefore encouraging to note that currently, there are considerable efforts that continue to be made in terms of strengthening both statistical production capacity and the dissemination infrastructure of statistical institutions. Therefore, the goal for Africa to produce useful statistics that are relevant, of high quality and consistent across the continent and across time is well on its way to being achieved. In this regard, EASTC is happy to say that it is gearing itself to help the NSOs develop their capacity in terms of their basic function as national statistical coordinating institutions, as well as in terms of their role in national planning.
Let me now conclude my reflections on this African Statistics day by reiterating the key idea that the African Statistics Day is celebrated every year to increase public awareness of the important role that statistics play in all aspects of social and economic life in Africa and in preserving the environment in which people live. For that reason the theme for this year has focused on “Better data for better lives”. In other words, data are instruments in measuring and managing the development process. But this process can only bring about the desired results if the NSSs are enhanced by modern technology; and the development results for the next 30 years will depend on the way quality data will be employed in implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Honorable Guest of Honour, kindly assist the development of the solid National Statistical System in Tanzania. It is very disgusting when you see the Coordinator of the NSS biding for a survey within the Government of Tanzania. It seems the meaning of TSMP or NSS in Tanzania is not clear. Again it can not be understood when you see an official statistician training in Theoretical Statistics while EASTC is the only institution that train the Official Statisticians in Africa.
On the role and functionality of the NSS, EASTC is ready to give a one-day seminar to Permanent Secretaries as it did to South Sudan under your coordination.
Thanks for your attention!
HAPA KAZI TU