Thought leaders from West African academia, research and policy agencies, and industry gathered at ISSER for a strategic consultation on data science, artificial intelligence, and decision-making in West Africa. The forum, titled Advancing Data and AI Competency for Effective and Trustworthy Decision Making in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) was a joint effort by Policy for Data CIC and the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER). The primary objectives were to gather knowledge, and perspectives and cultivate an inclusive platform that will lead to a sustainable model, enhancing Africa’s connectivity and global contribution in the policy-data sphere.
“This consultation is a testament to our commitment to fostering a culture of data-driven decision-making, not only within our university but throughout Ghana and the wider West African sub-region,” ISSER Director, Prof. Peter Quartey said in his welcome statement.
“It aligns seamlessly with ISSER’s vision…” he added, referencing initiatives by ISSER to facilitate and promote data-driven decision-making. Among others, he cited the joint project under the ISSER-based ReFinD research initiative to co-create, with local fintechs and key public financial agencies, a data repository at the Institute’s Measurement, Learning, and Evaluation (MLE) unit.
Dr. Zeynep Engin, Founding Director of Data for Policy CIC, highlighted her organization’s strong interest in making sure that data science and associated technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) in particular, are working for the public interest and in a balanced way. This, she said, was the motivation for organizing the forum.
She underscored the importance of ensuring a balanced dialogue to help include the perspectives and insights of under-represented groups in the global conversation on data science and AI, and thanked ISSER for collaborating with Data for Policy CIC to engage experts from the region.
The strategic consultation consisted of multidisciplinary and cross-sector exchanges, analysis, and networking structured around discussion panels. It involved about 30 thought leaders from various African countries in Anglophone and Francophone West Africa.
Beyond contributing to the Data for Policy 2024 Conference – Trustworthy Governance with AI, the forum provided a valuable platform for learning, partnership building and the co-creation of actionable strategies for the West Africa data for policy ecosystem.
For ISSER, the forum was an opportunity bring to bear its convening power and research expertise on an important objective, while strengthening collaborations. As Prof. Quartey rightly said, “… we are not merely hosting a consultation, but rather, we are building the foundation for a platform that encourages collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and action. We are committed to nurturing an inclusive sustainable environment for local and regional research dissemination, competency building, and implementation.”
The two-day strategic consultation took place from 25 to 26 October 2023.