The more we know, the better we become

In an attempt to solve development challenges, more accurately real problem gaps of a society,a decision maker  requires access to information. Evidence based data, information and research knowledge is one way to identify what the problem is, where the gaps are, measure its magnitude, and guide decisions to achieve rational development policies. Enabling access to micro data, is one means to ensure the continuous initiation of a wealth of new, fresh and policy relevant analysis of  reform, the Economic Research Forum (ERF) has made accessible its comprehensive Open Access Micro Data available online on household and labor market panel surveys. Feel free to check it out!

The Egyptian Labor Market Panel Survey

Event logo

Today,the Economic Research Forum (ERF) holds a two-day event to announce the main findings of ‘Egypt Labor Market Panel Survey (ELMPS) 2012’ from the 7-8th December 2013. During the event, ERF plans to disseminate results of the ELMPS 2012 survey and present a number of research papers that have built on the findings of the survey.

In this spirit, ERF launched a research project that aim at providing a detailed understanding of how political instability and challenging economic conditions have affected the performance of the Egyptian labor market in terms of the structure and evolution of main trends, female participation, youth unemployment and aspirations, labor market dynamics, labor market earnings, the contribution of MSEs to employment and income generation, international migration, among others. Some of the papers that have been commissioned and completed are available here.

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Inequality of opportunity and outcomes in the Arab Region

By Eman El-Hadary (Economic Research Forum)  and Rana Hendy (Economic Research Forum)

Rana Hendy, ERF

Rana Hendy, ERF

Despite the long negligence of inequality research for the benefit of economic growth, rising attention is paid to inequality and its possible contribution to the uprisings in the region. However, it is important to highlight that the Arab Region is characterized by predominant data scarcity for decades. Data are either unavailable or inaccessible by the research community due to political constraints. Nevertheless, the Economic Research Forum (ERF) is currently carrying out an important initiative through its partnership with statistical offices around the region making micro data accessible to the public by collecting, harmonizing and documenting the data. Building on these efforts, ERF has recently launched the Open Access Micro Data Initiative (OAMDI) that consists of dissemination micro data. This initiative has already started to bear its fruits as 17 datasets from three Arab countries namely Egypt, Palestine and Jordan are now accessible via the new ERF data portal.

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Inequality of Access to Information: Can Information Sharing be universalized?

Access to information has long been established as one of the major problems faced by southern researchers. Enhancing information accessibility and use helps to better understand, analyze and research ongoing development challenges so that practical solutions can originate from those directly affected by them. This cause is supported by the Connect South Campaign that has pledged to promote sharing knowledge and fostering connections between researchers and decision-makers in the global south, supported by GDNet, GDN’s Knowledge services.

Building on the World Bank’s “Mobilizing Knowledge Networks for Development” conference, Alex Bielak, Senior Fellow and Knowledge Broker (UNU-INWEH) and Louise Shaxon, Research Fellow (ODI), tackle the issue of access to information & the equality of access to information from the perspective of internet access. However Bielak argues the importance of communications infrastructure and how everyone should be connected through information sharing backbone networks that facilitates high-definition data transfer. He raises two interesting questions regarding the current global potential of information access, especially in the south; as to who can afford it, and the sufficiency and quality of this access to knowledge. He emphasizes on accessibility granting and whether it is in fact universal.

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Collaborated ‘Open Data’ and research uptake

(This is a cross post base on a blog post I wrote published at the erf blog , during ERF’s 19th annual conference)

Huge progress has been achieved to make data available and accessible to the public. This is considered a huge opportunity for researchers to make use of this data to analyze questions, provide evidence and come up with solutions to current issues of our time; argues Nemat Shafik, International Monetary Fund (IMF). ERF took the opportunity to launch one of its most important projects at the Annual Conference: its Open Access Micro Data project. This is an interesting segment to GDNet- GDN Knowledge service– since GDNet is planning to launch a beta version of its dataset as Linked Open Data (LOD) later this year.

In my previous post I noted the importance of partnership, collaboration and a joint multiple effort between big international, regional and local catalysts for development. With WBI pioneered the open data initiative, ERF about to launch their dataset, and IFPRI’s recently launched ArabSpatial initiative the question of cooperation cannot be more important. Individual efforts are all very well but the results would be multiplied through cooperation. Various institutions need to syndicate datasets and enhance good relationships with country statistic bureaus to make sure that the data is properly maintained, updated, reliable and robust.

It is indeed impossible to do state of the art research without access to data. However, the more open the datasets are the less information about research uptake there is to monitor. This is a balance worth thinking about and a challenge to knowledge intermediaries to think about new innovative ways to measure research impact and uptake.