RELI Africa’s micro-data library is set to strengthen RELI’s impact in education policy making

Njuhi Chege (Well Made Strategy) sat down with Kennedy Kamau and Moses Ngware of African Population and Health Research Center (APHRAC) to find out about their progress on RELI AFRICA’s micro-data library, and the impact they hope it will have on education policy making in East Africa.

What is the micro-data library and what problem is it solving?

It is an online platform that facilitates the documentation, archiving, and access of data from RELI members’ projects.

Often, there is not enough data and evidence to support education policy reforms and interventions. Facilitating access to data and evidence can work to support education organisations in obtaining funding, and in developing evidence-informed programming and decision making in the education sector.

While data and evidence from research and intervention programs exists, it is often not publicly available and even when it is there are many barriers to access. The absence of systematic mechanisms to make education data and evidence available (including data generated by RELI members) to a wider user-base, limits the uptake of data and evidence, therefore limiting learning and the improvement of the education sector.

To this end, the Regional Education Learning Initiative Data and Evidence thematic group was conceptualized with the aim of improving learning outcomes in the region through data driven advocacy and decision-making.

The evidence generated so far by RELI members has demonstrated that the network has the potential to contribute significantly to education policies that affect learning outcomes for all children at local, national and regional levels.

Mapping of existing or ongoing programmatic and research projects is important for giving us all an understanding of the full scope of RELI’s contribution to education data and evidence and for ensuring that new projects build on and connect with existing evidence.

Our micro-data platform aims to strengthen RELI’s evidence base and its impact on education policy in the East African region.

Who can access it and how?

Once ready and functional, the micro-data site will be accessed by those registered on the platform – an audience which will include RELI members and non-RELI members alike. We have developed data sharing principles and guidelines based on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The idea is to enable RELI members to get access to all datasets hosted on the documentation platform with the approval of the RELI member responsible for producing the data

The platform can also be accessed by other decision makers in the education sector – NGOs, researchers, students and any other party interested in learning about the state of the education sector in the region. This wide access is aimed at increasing collaboration between actors in the education sector and ensuring that any learnings from RELI members can be used by various stakeholders to improve learning outcomes.

How has the development process been for you? One or two lessons learnt that members could learn from.

Developing a micro-data library for RELI has been an exciting experience for APHRC. We feel that it is an innovation whose time has come. What drives us to complete this assignment is its potential to rejuvenate how RELI members process and use data generated from their programs. As a public good, data should be made available to support decision-making and we are grateful to be part of a process that is ultimately facilitating important voices in the education sector to inform decisions.  

The development process has been a long and insightful journey. It has embodied the collaboration we envision under RELI. We have held meetings and symposia in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, through which we have learned from each other’s data management processes. We have aggregated these processes to develop common data management and sharing standards which are also inspired by global best practices on data management and sharing for evidence informed decision making. We have also seen the need to push for an active data and evidence special interest group, where data related issues can be discussed – where solutions can be proposed and adopted.

One major lesson we have learned is that there is a clear need for a strategic approach when it comes to knowledge and research production, as well as the curation and dissemination of evidence. We have also learned the importance of patience in order to put together fruitful collaborations.

What is the microdata team most proud of? 

We are most proud of the fact RELI members have entrusted us and shared their data with APHRC and the possibility of RELI members, as well as non-RELI members accessing data from a central point. We are also proud that our team has developed common data standards that if adopted members will reduce the transaction cost of data sharing.

How will the microdata library impact members in the long run?

The library will ultimately strengthen learning amongst RELI members. Through the micro-data site, RELI members will be able to provide policy actors with evidence on what interventions work to improve equity, inclusion, and learning outcomes. This resource will also strengthen program implementation, as well as collaboration between RELI members and decision makers in the policy space.

The platform provides RELI members and education stakeholders with a space to interact, map existing or ongoing projects and partnerships, highlight and explore evidence gaps in education, and share and disseminate new evidence. RELI members will now have the information required to develop research that connects with and avoids duplicating existing evidence and research.

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