For the past few years I have been honored to provide research support to Global Integrity in its work to "champion transparent and accountable government around the world by producing innovative research and technologies that inform, connect, and empower civic, private, and public reformers seeking more open societies." All of this support work has finally paid off and one of the projects I worked on, the Africa Integrity Indicators, is now live! I think that the one thing that has made me most proud in contributing to the development of this tool is the methodology they applied to gathering information. They used researchers who were citizens of the countries being researched or who actually live in the country. This to me is tremendous since it is not often done and organizations usually rely on data gathered solely from people from afar. Then, the research that these primary researchers gather must be supported by evidence, including interviews with civil society stakeholders. Once this initial data collection is completed, they then pass the research on to two sets of reviewers, including people like me, who check, double check and then also offer supporting evidence for our findings. This process of multiple layers of verification really strengthen the eventual output and its veracity.
Global integrity describes their efforts as such: "Using a blend of social science and journalism, in-country teams of independent researchers, academics and journalists report on the de jure as well as de facto reality of corruption and governance. Measuring both the existing legal framework and the “in practice” implementation is key in our effort to produce actionable governance data that help governments, citizens and civil society understand and evaluate the status quo and identify intervention points for subsequent reform efforts."
I reviewed country Social Development indicators in the categories of Gender and Education, two of my main areas of expertise. These categories sought to look at the level of gender equality in a country or, for education, some indicators that point to the quality of education provision.
I really came to appreciate the holistic and common sense approach taken for gathering the information for both of these indicators. I was often asked to justify some of my findings and contributed to the development of the ways in which some of the indicators were applied and/or interpreted.
As you will see from the website and the in-depth tool that has been built from the data we collected, this is one of the more comprehensive sources of information on governance in Africa that has ever been created. I hope it goes far in generating much needed reform in the region. However, I sincerely hope that such tools are created for other regions of the world very soon since certainly it is not only Africa that faces challenges with governance. The openness and accessibility that an online tool such as the Africa Integrity Indicators helps facilitate would be phenomenal to have replicated for other regions in the world.