Article: Sierra Leone Calls for the Strengthening of Data and Statistics at National Level

By Sierra Leone Research Team

While there is said to be significant improvement in the areas of statistics and data since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were first implemented in the year 2000, there are still a number of gaps and weaknesses which need to be addressed and ameliorated in order to ensure a higher degree of robustness in the upcoming post-2015 process. There is consequently a need to strengthen Sierra Leone’s data and statistics at a national level and align national capacities so that they can meet international requirements on quality and accountability.

Sierra Leone has a national statistical office, Statistics Sierra Leone, mandated to collect data on all issues of national interest.  The institution faces challenges when it comes to strengthening their statistical capacity, conducting timely analyses of collected data, improving access to data and retaining trained personnel.

On May 13th, 2014, a Post-2015 Data Test workshop was carried out by Fourah Bay College, University Sierra Leone. Members of both the public, private and academic sectors convened to discuss the potential of a data revolution, in support of the post-2015 data test in Sierra Leone. Chaired, by Dr. Alex Mbayo, the workshop included a key note address by Mr. N.S.B.Wellington, Senior Research Fellow, Former Minister of Development and Adviser to the Governor, Bank of Sierra Leone. He opined that within the debate on improving and opening up data, one thing is essential to remember: that the ability to measure is critical to the success of global development goals, targets and indicators, which have to be monitored and evaluated over time.

There are many challenges when it comes to implementing global development goals. Even with  significant funding and effort on international, national and local levels, the development of robust monitoring methods and comprehensive reporting standards are lacking. Large data gaps exist in several databases which track development progress. As recently as 2013, Statistics Sierra Leone had not institutionalised sex- and age-disaggregated data collection processes in each ministry’s research and planning department to track the effects of policies and programmes on women, men, girls and boys and identify gaps. Nevertheless, a number of institutions are collecting sex-disaggregated data on public exams, enrolment rates, and employment in the civil service, police and army. Some crime statistics also include sex-disaggregated information. Despite progress, data gaps continue which makes it difficult to track performance at a country level.

Going forward, the Sierra Leone research team will unpack these issues and more as the Post-2015 Data Test unfolds. Already it has drawn attention to the need to strengthen statistical capacity at both national and international levels and highlighted the strengths and shortcomings of the current measurement framework, including criteria for target setting and indicator selection, and the role of the statistical community in the process of selecting goals, targets and indicators for the new development framework. The Sierra Leone case study will continue to build on these efforts.