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The political economy of official statistics: Implications for the data revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa

Discussion Paper 170

December 2014

Krätke, F., Byiers, B. The political economy of official statistics: Implications for the data revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Discussion Paper 170; In partnership with PARIS21- Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century - Discussion Paper No. 5). Maastricht: ECDPM.

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Key messages:

The ‘Data Revolution’ aims to step up reform efforts for improving the capacity of statistical organisations and systems using recent technological solutions like ‘big data’, while continuing to advocate for more and better data in developing countries.

But the ‘Data Revolution’ rhetoric has largely ignored political economy factors, such as historical factors, formal and informal institutional setups, and actor incentives. These influence how and why national statistical systems operate. Technological solutions may help but are not sufficient.

For it to make a difference, work towards a ‘Data Revolution’ must explicitly acknowledge the real political economy challenges on the ground and aim to work within these constraints to improving data, and/or aim to alter the current incentives for producing and using good official statistics.

This may allow genuine windows of opportunity to be identified. While nongovernmental actors may effectively use ‘big data’ to by-pass existing political bottlenecks to statistical reform, the case for how this might help official statistics has yet to be made.

More information is available on the Informing a Data Revolution website

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Economic Transformation and TradeDiscussion Papers (series)Political economy analysis