High-quality data key for achieving the SDGs in Ghana

UNCT-GH-SDG-Data-Forum-2017From left to right: Susan Ngongi, UN Resident Coordinator a.i.; Claire Melamed, Executive Director, Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data; Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President of Ghana; Mr. Baah Wadieh, acting Government Statistician; and Mr. Nii Moi Thompson, Director General, NDPC. (Photo source: SDG Data Ghana, twitter: https://twitter.com/sdgdataghana)

21 April 2017, Accra, Ghana

“Data is the lifeblood of decision-making and the raw material for accountability to progress. Without data, we don’t know if what we are doing is the right thing, and we don’t know if we are doing it well – whether our actions, policies, and programmes are really making the most difference possible,” said Susan Namondo Ngongi, UNICEF Representative, in her opening remarks which were presented on behalf of the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Ghana, at the recent National SDG Data Roadmap Forum (Accra, 5-6 April 2017).

The SDG Data Roadmap Forum was organised by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), in collaboration with the SDGs Implementation Coordination Committee led by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), with support from the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) and UNDP. The objective was to explore more effective or new ways of working to generate and use the data required for successful SDG implementation, and to come up with the elements of a roadmap to strengthen the ‘data ecosystem’ for the way forward.

The Forum brought together over 130 stakeholders from government, civil society, private sector, as well as a range of experts and participants from selected countries to share their experiences and explore how to better tackle data gaps, use spatial data, increase the production of disaggregated data, engage civil society not only as data users but also as data producers, make use of administrative data for monitoring, and foster an enabling environment that meets the concerns facing both users and producers of data.    

In his welcome address, the Acting Government Statistician, Mr Baah Wadieh, noted that the national statistical system through the National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS) acknowledged the need for a wider cooporation to harness the opportunities to share and disseminate good data to create a harmonious data ecosystem. He added that Ghana joined the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data to be able to connect with other's expertise and experiences globally. 

Government provided high-level leadership on the issues with both the Vice-President of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, and the Minister of Finance, Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta, emphasising the importance of data for Ghana’s development agenda.

In his keynote address, H.E. Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia underlined: “Country-level commitments to the SDGs will not be feasible without fast-tracking the data revolution to provide the right information at the right time that is universally accessible to all. Ghana’s attainment of its SDGs will be critically underpinned by a robust data regime that is collectively supported by all partners, including the private sector, academia, NGOs, bilateral and multilateral institutions in a harmonised manner.”

He also highlighted the importance of data ecosystem for the pillars critical to government’s strategy to formalise Ghana’s economy through the implementation of a new Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Strategy, an ambitious National Identification Programme, a digital addressing system and enhanced mobile interoperability with banks for financial inclusion. Together, these would serve as powerful tools to capture and record the most significant events in Ghanaians’ lives while enabling better public services simultaneously.

In his presentation on Ghana’s approach to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Dr. Nii Moi Thompson, Director General of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), pointed out that given the alignment between the SDGs and African Union’s Agenda 2063 – which Ghana is domesticating in its planning frameworks through a process of alignment, adoption and adaptation – the indicators of progress can be used to report separately, but in a complementary manner, to the UN and the AU, respectively. 

To fulfil the commitment to “Leave No One Behind” on which Agenda 2030 is based, the SDGs require a nuanced approach to assessing progress at global, regional, national and sub-national levels and use of ever more disaggregated data.

Though Ghana is a comparatively “data-rich” country, Ms Namondo Ngongi indicated: “A challenge however is to ensure production and use of information from routine administrative data systems, by capturing the (administrative) data that is produced on a more regular basis as Ministries, Departments and agencies go about their normal business.” Such data could be important for close to 60% of the indicators.

Ghana has been actively engaged in the process for the formulation of the SDGs at global, regional and national level fora and, through GSS, it is also active in the discussions around the finalisation of the global indicator framework. Most recently, President Nana Akufo-Addo has been announced to serve as co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Advocates, succeeding H.E. Mr. John Mahama, who completed his assignment at the end of December.

The domestication of the SDGs and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 into Ghana’s ambitious Long Term National Development Plan (2018-2057) and upcoming medium-term development plan (2018-2021) places increased demand on the National Statistical System (NSS). At the same time, new technologies, approaches, methods of collecting data, and engagement of different stakeholders offer opportunities to rise to challenge. The Forum was timely in facilitating important conversations to define a structured way forward as part of an iterative and adaptive process. Upcoming opportunities to explore some of the issues in more detail and to continue the momentum include the Africa Open Data Conference in July in Accra.

The UN System plays a vital role in providing support for the implementation of the SDGs as well as the data and indicators used to track progress at global, regional and national levels. The Forum built on previous support for strengthening the national statistical system in Ghana. The UN Data Group brings together the work of the UN System and provides fora for coordination of such support as well as for knowledge sharing and collaboration on data issues. It is currently chaired by UNDP which is an active representative on the multi-stakeholder advisory committee that was established to steer the Data Roadmap Forum and provide oversight of the implementation of the SDG data roadmap.