Enabling change

  • Patrick Oladimeji
Patrick Oladimeji

Inspiring people to have the sense of agency to drive change starts first with providing the opportunities for change to happen and providing enough feedback and transparency that links their actions to the resulting changes. A necessary change I envision in a significant part of the world today is access to data. Nigeria in 2021 has an estimated median age of 18, with about 55% of the population between ages 15 - 65. A household survey by the World Bank showed that about 74% and 20% of people have access to telephones and internet respectively (with regional variations). The state of electronic information currently available is fragmented in most sectors. Information and data exist and are provided by different sources often aggregated and summarised for general consumption. Deriving any source of insights from the data remains challenging.

There is opportunity to educate and pick the narrative we use to create factual information that are culturally relevant and that people can relate to. The first step in achieving this is curating and collecting foundational data and ensuring people have access to consuming the data as well as contribute to enriching and modifying the data. Some are already doing great work in this space including Tracka, BudgIT, shineyoureye, and the National Bureau of Statistics. These platform have the Nigerian populace as a direct intended consumer. I believe it is time to empower the young technophiles with access to structured data upon which they can build tools, derive insights and tell their own stories.

Citizen Science Nigeria is a technology-first platform with initial focus on curating and publishing records on tenures of government officials in Nigeria's Fourth Republic. Over the last decade, I've heard statements such as:

"We don't have any young politicians..."  and "We have been governed by the same people for the past 5 decades..."

I understand these sentiments given the state of the country and its potential. They however lack the actionable insights I'd like to inspire in a growing young population. Such statements are often paired with heavy negative emotions due to constant frustrations felt in the country and are rarely backed up with any objective data because even when it exists, data is not reliably available. Moreover Nigeria is a large country with a diverse population. General statements like these undermine any efforts and progress achieved by sub-communities across the country. So how does one nudge those with access to technology to seek out objective data? Assuming a world where coherent and cohesive data exists, for instance on public office holders in the Nigerian government, would it change the way people feel about politics? If the platform hosting the data encouraged engagement and objective discourse about insights that are being derived as a result of the curation and aggregation of the data, can we nudge people towards making more data-driven decisions?

There is a very long road ahead and I do not claim to have answers to the questions I pose. I have ideas. Lots of ideas. This is one very small step in providing access to information that I believe will have a multiplier effect on decision making for future generations.

Acknowledgements

The thumbnail image used in this post was by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash. Jeremiah Iyamabo provided valuable comments on draft versions of this document.

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