Creating a Data Economy

Data Economy

This is a two-part series which reflects on how proper data collection and usage can improve government performance, drive effective policy, encourage foreign investment and deliver sound results. We hope to start a conversation among stakeholders looking to build a strong and integrated open data community on the continent.

The world is a global village. The permeation of digitization, connectivity and the rapid advancements in technology has changed the global economy forever. It has revolutionized the generation and consumption of data in ways one cannot begin to quantify. The rise in the availability of data and sheer serviceability of data-driven insights has led to an inevitable data economy based on the generation of value using data that has been sourced via various means. A data economy is, simply put, a digital ecosystem in which data is organized and exchanged for the value that those in this ecosystem stand to gain. This data is accumulated by various Internet of Things (IoT) actors for the purpose of prediction, measurement and governance.

The role data plays in today’s global economy cannot be understated as it is fast becoming the world’s most valuable asset.

With over 20 million inhabitants each, Lagos and Cairo are the cities with the highest populations in Africa followed immediately by Kinshasa which has over 13 million inhabitants. Luanda, Nairobi and Mogadishu, have 6 million residents making for a combined 19 million people then, Abidjan, Accra, Addis Ababa, Alexandria, Casablanca, Dar es Salam and Johannesburg have a little over 4 million each bring it to about 30 million. These are all users and possessors of data. The data that these almost 100 million inhabitants of only major cities generate daily could go into monumental research that is capable of being beneficial to the development and efficacy of their cities and the others around them. Taking a lesson from Europe, building a data economy has proven beneficial to nations within the European Union as they generate immense revenue from a thriving data economy and thereby, have created thousands of jobs. In Nigeria, for example, the data and statistics available are sporadic and therefore barely sufficient for generating insights. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics releases and curates a library for data gathered and these releases are often irregular thus making basic information that would be useful to tech investors and innovators not readily available for public consumption.

The current holders of data are constantly adapting and evolving. This alone begs for a single and uniform model of regulation which is where the governments of African nations should be clamouring to capitalize on as best as they can and as with the European Union, a Digital Single Market strategy will be useful. The Digital Single Market strategy is a concept by the European Union that seeks to achieve free movement of persons, services and capital. A society where individuals and businesses can access and engage in online activities under conditions that favour fair competition and personal data protection for all, regardless of their nationality or place of residence.

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