In February 2014, the Africa Information Highway (AIH) was launched by the African Development Bank (ADB). According to a top executive at the ADB, Ivo Njosa, in an op-ed by SciDev.Net, published in early August 2014, a major reason for such an initiative is that development data from the African continent and the Central African region most especially remains porous. Policymakers, governments, international organizations, private-sector organizations, research institutions, and even ordinary African citizens find it difficult to get viable data on development issues on the continent and especially on the Central African region.
The AIH initiative is composed of two types of portals for each participating state, namely an open data portal and a statistical data portal. According to SciDev.Net, open data and new statistical initiatives are being created to correct long overdue barriers to viable development data access across the African continent. These initiatives promise to improve services and increase transparency and furnish better services.
SciDev.Netopines that since the AIH initiative was launched, it has seen an increase in its users, both from the Diaspora and within the African continent. SciDev.Net adds that the most current published report exemplifies Mozambique’s statistical data portal as the most visited.
Amparo Ballivian, a lead economist at the World Bank purports that open data on states in the developing world can be utilized “to improve the efficiency and coverage of public services in a variety of development sectors such as education, health, transport, energy”. According to Ballivian, such initiatives can assist in the creation of job opportunities, improve transparency and generate new businesses both in the public and the private sector. Ballivian informed SciDev.Net that the purpose of the Partnership for Open Data idea is to put in place an extensive partnership of institutions so that they can work together to have better data and not discredit data provided by these institutions.
Lead consultant at the ADB, Ivo Njosa concurs that the AIH will thus furnish a more fluid medium whereby data can easily be shared. According to this ADB top executive, “Open data portals contain data from national and other sources [such as the WHO, the World Bank, or the UN] and allow users to create and share content directly on the open data [portal] or through social networks.”
This is indeed a laudable initiative by the ADB and there is thus need for collaboration with other existing initiatives on the continent. Franklin N. Nnebe, Managing Director of Nnebe Business Services Ltdattests that data centers in Africa are becoming very important for development. South Africa is host of the most sophisticated data center market in Africa. North Africa comes second to South Africa in the Data center market. Kenya comes first in the data center market in the East African region which ranks third on the continent. West Africa comes fourth with Nigeria being the guru in this sub region with respect to data centers. The Central African region tails the list.
Some of the reasons why the central African region comes last in data center creation are partly because of poor institutional and instrumental measures in place. According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Report of 2013 this region is ranked the last with respect to infrastructural development and good governance. It is thus vital for the Central African region to embrace free market ideologies that would enable the growth of more viable data collection centers for better development and peace in the region. There is thus need for a revisit of internal factors like governance and infrastructural development in the region. There is equally a need for a vibrant private sector which can take up the challenge in setting up viable data collection centers in the sub region. Such measures may make the Central African region a top hub for data collection centers in the future.