Adeposi Okupe: We Need Data for Faith to Work

E go beta: Faith vs Logic

This is Nigeria. We live and breathe faith & hope as a people. This may even be our biggest cultural export, just like Germany is known for engineering and India is known for information technology – only if we could find a way to make it yield benefits.

Nigerians have faith: it is why we are still standing as a nation even though a certain American agency predicted we would disintegrate by 2015. A logical projection by all standards, the Americans did not take into account the fact that Nigerians are driven by faith. A mix of surviving in spite of bad governance and harsh living conditions / business environments has made us adopt faith as oxygen.

But there’s a balance.

While we need to use faith in envisioning our future, we also need to employ logical thinking when it comes to planning and execution. This is where data comes in. It is said that he who does not know his destination never arrives. It is also said that you cannot arrive at your destination if you do not know where you are coming from or worse still, if you do not know your current position!

Data is the crucial component here, and this applies on multiple levels: at the level of the individual, corporate and national. If there must be any progress, then we must take data seriously

An economy seeking to grow must first prioritize the recording, analysis and utilization of its data.

According to a 2010 UN Resolution, national statistics in any country should get more attention if the country is to have any orderly and definite development programme. No meaningful national development can take place without empowering the national statistical system. So before we explore this further, we have to take stock of where we are: what is the accurate population of Nigeria? Is it 180 million? Or 200 million? More? Less?

Way Forward: Evidence-Based Decision Making

Through data, we can find patterns and proactively create interventions to prevent mishaps from occurring or escalating. Data helps us turn away from our national culture of emergency response teams to taking more preventive measures. Two steps we must adopt as a nation are:

  1. Document Things– Where are you right now?
    The first step to any progressive development is taking stock of your current situation and this has to be done consistently to be able to identify patterns and trends.

In the case of Nigeria, we need to know our population on an ongoing basis, we have to know how many deaths, how many births, take stock of those who are jobless, know how many are young, how many are old and so on.  If we think of Nigeria as a business we would need to ask: what is our balance of trade, what are our revenue streams and how much does it take to run Nigeria?

Likewise, if you run a business you’d need to know your numbers. Those in sales, advertising and marketing know this. They know they have to have a figure of how many people they need to reach in order to generate a specific amount of leads and how many leads generate sales and how many sales generate profits. There is a hierarchy of data that helps track progress and growth. Therefore, the first step to progressive growth is documenting events as they unfold. So ask yourself: how many people walked into your store today?

  1. Performance Indicators– What should you measure?
    How do you ensure that you are on track to achieving your goals? Recording the wrong data is as bad as not taking data at all.

nigeria data collection design partyOur nation must know what to measure. Beyond Gross Domestic Product GDP, should we prioritize per capita income or even adopt a more holistic Gross National Happiness GNH. Governments should focus on creating metrics relevant to their population to measure the impact of policies and programmes.

For example, we have an informal economy that dwarfs the size of the formal, who is documenting that? How can we have such a mammoth sector and not measure the extent of its impact on the nation’s economy? Does the new Ease of Doing Business Action Plan #EDBAP developed by Vice President Osinbajo and his team have any impact on the mechanic, the vulcanizer, the kpof kpof hawker, or the local community store? Should it? And if it does, what are we measuring? and how will we use that information?

Like a business, Nigeria must understand what numbers she needs to be document in order to make sure our economy stays healthy and growing, only then can we know what to strengthen and what to discourage. Once we begin to document and have performance indicators, we would have placed our feet on the path to real progress, one that benefits us contextually and not just theoretically.