The most recent data show significant strides in reducing maternal mortality at the national level over the past 20 years. Improvements in access to maternal health care, especially in skilled birth assistance, have contributed to the reduction of maternal mortality.
While these improvements are impressive, the national level data often mask inequalities in skilled birth assistance within countries. There may be gaps within a country, for example, where wealthy women might have better access than women from poor households. According to the World Health Organization, "The high number of maternal deaths in some areas of the world reflects inequities in access to health services, and highlights the gap between rich and poor."
In Kenya, Data Science, LTD (www.datascience.co.ke) is a data analysis and research company providing services to government, local organizations, and businesses. The company seeks to promote greater understanding and use of available data to gain insights for better planning, resource allocation, and entrepreneurship. This blog post is based on a recent Google Hangout discussion with Data Science, LTD founder Linet Kwamboka.
So what is it like being a data analysis company in Kenya, and what can others learn from Linet’s experience?
Open data roots
Linet worked on the World Bank supported opendata.go.ke as a project manager in the lead up to the initiative's launch in 2011. The company works with clients seeking to utilize data to make better decisions. They include private companies involved in marketing, jobs, retail, and consumer products. With government and civil society clients, the focus is to improve decision-making that lead to better public services and advocacy efforts.
Overcoming gaps in data
Linet has learned that the tasks of sourcing, analyzing, and transforming data into more readily consumed and actionable forms can take a significant amount of effort and time. In many situations, the data simply do not exist or are out of date.
Follow the Money (http://followthemoneyng.org/) is a community action organization that leverages open budget and aid spending data from the Nigerian government and its aid partners. The organization also advocates for specific issues that impact communities, most recently, in the Zamfara State.
Follow the Money activists collect, publish, and visualize data, then connect findings to national and global social media networks in order to bring government attention to crises on the ground that require resources or immediate action. Once visualized, the data become a resource for citizens in affected communities to track government expenditures against actual outcomes.
The team has tackled issues like lead poisoning, flood relief, and most recently, education. They also host partners with other organizations, like Indigo Trust U.K. to offer regular data literacy events for other non-profits, journalists, government officials, legal professionals, and open data activists.
- On a global level, the rate of under-five child mortality has been cut in half, from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 48 per 1,000 in 2012. The estimated annual number of under-five deaths has fallen from 12.6 million to 6.6 million over the same period.
- Since 1990, 216 million children worldwide have died before their fifth birthday — more than the current total population of Brazil, the world's fifth most populous country.
- Disparities between children in the high-income and low-income countries have narrowed, but many gaps still remain. Case in point: In Luxembourg, the under-five mortality rate is just 2 deaths per 1,000 live births; in Sierra Leone, it is 182 deaths per 1,000 births.
As we stand a year away from the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 – which aims to reduce the global under-five child mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015 – the pace of reduction would have needed to quadruple in 2013-2015 to achieve this goal, according to the United Nations Children's Fund's (UNICEF's) Committed to Child Survival: A Promised Renewed – Progress Report 2013.
A closer look at regional rates
Now let's take a look at the regional and country level data by viewing the World Development Indicators (WDI) 2014 and the indicator under-five mortality rate. The WDI also features a short progress report on MDG 4, which complements the detailed analysis of the World Bank Group's Global Monitoring Report. This report uses the same methodology to assess whether countries are on track or off track to meet the 2015 targets.
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where one in ten children die before the age of five, faces the biggest challenges in achieving MDG 4, followed by South Asia. The SSA region reduced its child mortality rate by 45% during 1990 to 2012, the only region to reduce its under-five mortality rate by less than half during this time. SSA also lags behind other regions in its pace of decline in the total number of under-five deaths.
Their offense? Going to school.
This grim story highlights the pressing issue of education in the developing world.
So I thought I’d look at the stats. First: primary completion rate, which is the number of students in the last year of primary compared to the number of children of the correct age for that year – and one of the measures that is used to assess progress to “MDG2” – to achieve universal primary education. As of 2010, the estimate for Nigeria was 76%, higher than the Sub-Saharan Africa average of 69%, but well below the world average of 91%. And Nigerian girls were almost 10 percentage points behind Nigerian boys’ primary completion rate in that year. Interestingly, in 2006, the primary completion rate was as high as 90%, putting Nigeria slightly above the world average. The rate has since declined, possibly due to a steady increase in the size of Nigeria’s youth population, which can put a strain on resources linked to education. About 44% of the population was under 14 years of age in 2012.
During the past few years, interest in high-frequency price data has grown steadily. Recent major economic events - including the food crisis and the energy price surge – have increased the need for timely high-frequency data, openly available to all users. Standard survey methods lag behind in meeting this demand, due to the high cost of collecting detailed sub-national data, the time delay usually associated with publishing the results, and the limitations to publishing detailed data. For example, although national consumer price indices (CPIs) are published on a monthly basis in most countries, national statistical offices do not release the underlying price data.