Sunday, August 19, 2012
DEMOGRAPHIC DATA VITAL FOR DEVELOPMENT
By James Kotzsch – German Foundation for World Population Nearly all major events in people’s lives have demographic implications: birth, schooling, marriage, occupational choices, child bearing, retirement and death. Demography is not just dry Maths and statistics. Behind all figures and graphs are the lives and fate of individuals. Demography is about people as planning at family, district and national level, demography is about people. Therefore everyone counts. Lacking interest in demographic questions is like not being interested in one’s personal life. Demographic and related data is essential to policy makers and development planners across nearly every sector of society. Unfortunately, there is a lot of difficulty in access, generation of accurate records and utilization of demographic data. This situation is not only unique to Uganda but is prevalent in many other countries. A study published in 2009 by the Population Reference Bureau underscored some of the challenges on availability and use of demographic and socioeconomic data: INADEQUATE COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS OF CRUCIAL DATA Some desirable and crucial data is not fully or evenly correctly captured. The desired data should include records on vital events like births, deaths, marriages, divorces including migration data. However, such records are not updated regularly. POOR ACCESS TO INFORMATION Data exists although many people are not aware of its existence and how to access it. Furthermore, although digital access has been improved, there is still very low utilization due to lack of technical capacity to access, understand and analyze the digital information /data. LACK OF KNOWLEDGE AND/OR MOTIVATION TO USE DATA FOR DECISION MAKING The poor demand for available demographic data among decision makers and civil society including the media, combined with lack of commitment towards evidence-based policies and reporting seems to be one of the most significant barriers. LIMITED CAPACITY TO COMMUNICATE DATA EFFECTIVELY Most data users rely on the media and press releases from data producers as their main means of communicating demographic data. However, the generators of the data often have little capacity to disseminate the data effectively. The study recommended that it was necessary to build the appreciation of leaders, managers, and policymakers on the importance of data for evidence based decision making. Having one of the youngest populations in the world, Uganda’s future will greatly depend on the choices available to young people and the decisions made. Young people should be guided to make informed decisions. Young people are a focus in demographic data collection and should be considered as potential users of the generated information and their capacity to access, analyze and understand it.