In Malawi there are many data providers and data users and each of them uses different platforms and tools. The first step of building a data collaborative in a country is bringing these preexisting data ecosystems, stakeholders to the table and documenting the available relevant data with them. At 510 we do this during an ‘inception workshop’.

Our first inception workshop happened on the 16th of August 2017 in Lilongwe, Malawi. It formed the official kickoff of a project titled “Building a Data Collaborative to support Sustainable Development Goals on Health and WASH”, supported by the Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD).

The attendance was remarkable: more than 50 members of the government, international organizations, NGOs and academia participated in the inception workshop. The workshop was created in partnership with the National Statistics Office (NSO) of Malawi, the Malawi Red Cross Society and the 510 initiative of Netherlands Red Cross.








LEFT: Mercy Kanyuka, the Commissioner of Statistics RIGHT: participants at the inception workshop on 16th august 2017

Mercy Kanyuka, the Commissioner of Statistics, gave a welcome address explaining the rationale behind this project. She explained that to report for the Millenium Development Goals (which expired in 2015), mostly census and survey data was used in a participatory, all-inclusive and collaborative effort between different government ministries and agencies. However, reporting on the SDGs has become more complex, given the considerable increase in the number of goals, targets and indicators. Therefore, NSO must supplement official statistics with new data, such as big data or volunteered geographic information, for covering the SDGs. NSO is preparing to build capacity in this area and very much welcomes the GPSDD project initiative that the Red Cross has started.

“I look forward to a fruitful and collaborative effort in this project.” Mercy Kanyuka, Commissioner of Statistics in Malawi

The first goal of the workshop was to have a shared view of the current data, barriers and challenges. NSO compared the data needed for the SDGs’ reports to the data currently available. They determined that the integration of the SDGs within the National Development Strategy by the Malawi Government is going well, however, some data is still missing which is crucial for the SDGs’ report such as baselines for 2015 and data for specific indicators.

Another challenge common to all organizations is coordinating data providers and data users. Digital platforms for data sharing have been set up by (for example)  MASEDA and MASDAP and the GIS Working Group, but with limited resources for raising awareness and literacy in their use. This means that their use by organizations is still limited.

Even if shared platforms are used, the data itself needs to be useful and shareable. Therefore standards for data management and data collection need to be implemented.  This will ensure that data can be stored on the platform in the same format, with the same amount of meta-data and with the same quality.Lastly, many of the data users and providers are people living in communities without access to digital technology. A plan for digital inclusion needs to be implemented.

One of the main achievements of the inception workshop was the mapping of stakeholders to data and data sharing platforms.

Visual map (going from the middle outwards)of the different categories of stakeholders in Malawi, the specific organizations and data related entities within these categories, and the geo-spatial platforms or databases that they use to share data. Here is a high resolution version. 

At the closure of the workshop, all organizations expressed a strong interest to engage throughout the project and to find ways to address coordination problems on data for SDGs. Members expressed a shared ambition of realizing better-targeted policies and action towards reaching the health and WASH SDG targets.

Concrete follow-up actions for 2017-2018 were agreed upon:

(1) Launching a “Digital Collaborative Workspace” through MASDAP.

(2) A workshop to create a detailed inventory of the barriers and challenges in coordinating data users and providers for SDGs.

(3) A working session with a small group of key stakeholders to set up a pilot of the new data collection methodology. The pilot will focus on a limited set of WASH and Health SDG indicators with the following goals:  (a) supplement current datasets with unofficial statistics (such as volunteering geographic information with Missing Maps) (b) share relevant data not yet available as open data (c) select a data collection methodology for the missing data.

Written by Marc van den Homberg.

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