Professor Samuel K. Annim, the Government Statistician at the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), says bridging the intellectual gap between his outfit, policymakers and academia will require the setting up of a Data Policy Institute.
The Institute, he said, would promote the creation of synergies among stakeholders to ensure that research data were harnessed and well disseminated to inform policy decisions for the benefit of citizens.
He made the suggestion at the National Census Policy Dialogue, which was part of activities to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Regional Institute for Population Studies (RIPS) of the University of Ghana.
Prof Anim urged RIPS to take an initiative and perform a population policy audit to assess how census data over the years had informed the design of population-related policies and their subsequent outcomes.
He indicated that the conversation on data transitioning had changed at the GSS from data collection to developing a data integrity framework, which had data accountability as part of its component.
The Government Statistician revealed that discussions were ongoing on how to rank government institutions, specifically Metropolitan Municipal District Assemblies (MMDA) and Ministries Department and Agencies (MDA) on data accountability.
The exercise, he said, was intended to assess the adherence level of such entities in using data to inform their strategic plans.
“This is to emphasise that data policy transitioning should be a measurement and for that matter a metric-centred approach and not rhetoric.
“Data accountability approach provides a platform to ask ourselves why do we do a census every 10 years? why do we do a traditional census? What are we going to do with improvement in administrative data?”
In instances where the MMDA may be lacking the capacity to utilise the data, he urged them to collaborate with the GSS and other relevant institutions.
He also recommended setting aside a small budget for investment in data collection at the district level, especially when relevant data were not available.
“I am convinced that the census has enormous data that are a rich source of material we can make use of in all aspects of our development planning activities,” he said.
Mr Barnabas Yisa, Acting Country Representative of UNFPA Ghana, noted that Ghana’s leadership had been exemplary in the planning and collection of data during the census.
He observed that census data was relevant to the government and its agencies in effective policy formulation and implementation while guiding the decision of development partners, civil society organisations and private sector and the media.
For data collected to be of value to stakeholders, he said there had to be a deliberate effort to put the data to good use.
“We believe that it is time to move a little further than collecting data through census and other means. UNFPA will like to support the establishment of a national data observatory for demographic dividends in Ghana,” he said.
Mr Yisa also called for the development of mechanisms, which would allow data on the population to be integrated into the development plan, adding that, “if you are planning and there is no population, then it is a vague plan.”
The dialogue sought to highlight the depth and relevance of data generated from the 2021 Population and Housing Census.
It was held under the theme, “Census Data for Effective Policy Decision Making and Sustainable Development.”