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Ghanainfo, a database system that helps to organise and present data on social development indicators, was on Tuesday launched in Accra.

Ghanainfo would help to improve the availability and timely dissemination of comprehensive statistical information that would help policy analysis and decision-making of government, donors and other institutions.

The system, which is the brainchild of Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) and National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), was under the theme: "Bridging the Gap Between Data Production and Utilisation in Ghana."

It was funded by the British Department for International Development, United Nations Children Education Fund and other United Nations bodies.

Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, in a speech read on his behalf, noted that Ghana's development planning effort had been hindered by the non-availability of essential information that was often released after significant tag.

"In fact lack of accurate and timely statistical information has been identified as one of the reasons for failed and inefficient development plans in most developing countries with Ghana not being an exception." Mr Baah-Wiredu described the trend as unfortunate saying "it was unacceptable and, therefore, cannot be allowed to continue. We need sufficient relevant data from our mandated data producing institution on all the sectors of our economy".

The Minister said the successful implementation of Government's programmes to some extent involved rigorous and structured monitoring and evaluation processes that required accurate and easily accessible and timely data.

He, therefore, charged institutions not to limit data production at the national and regional levels but to assemble indicators on employment, production and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the district level.

"This is part of the requirement of the current orientation in governance, which makes the district the basic unit of administration," he said.

The Minister noted that Ghana was currently having 138 Districts and 150 Ministries, Department and Agencies and urged GSS to reciprocate dependence on each other in terms of data collection and information sharing.

He expressed his delight to the formation of the national database saying: "It will enhance monitoring and evaluation of programme implementation."

The Minister urged initiators to remain focused to ensure that the database would be consistently resourced to harness and harmonise wide range of data that Ghana needed for effective planning, monitoring and evaluation of programmes including the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS).

"The realization of the objective and targets of GPRS and Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) is paramount to Government's effort to mitigate the strain of poverty on its citizenry," he said. Dr Grace Bediako, Government Statistician, said the process of building and maintaining the Ghanainfo database would yield significant benefits not only to the GSS but also to the national statistical system at large.

She said data collection was an expensive undertaking and stressed the need to ensure its maximum use.

Dr Bediako noted that in Ghana, GSS was responsible for the collection, compilation, analysis and dissemination of statistical data and was faced with many challenges.

She, therefore, called for the revival of the National Advisory Committee of Producers and Users of Statistics and other working groups to serve as platform for discussion on the need of users and consensus building on standardization and harmonization of methods of data collection procedures.

"We should expand this system to include a broader set of data that other users, who are interested in particular micro datasets and detailed tables that will serve the needs of academic and research institutions and students."

She said GSS and its development partners would be conducting statistical literacy training to take Ghanainfo and MDGs to the public, especially to the regions and districts.

Ms Dorothy Rozga, UNICEF Country Representative, described the launch of Ghanainfo as historic saying it would make it possible to compare data from different sources and methodologies.

Ms Rozga, who also described Ghanainfo as a powerful advocacy tool, said it would create wealth of data and analysis that would be accessible to all users. "Our aim is for Ghana to have a contemporary, interactive, data collection and visualisation information system," she said.