ERF took the opportunity to launch one of its most important projects at the Annual Conference: its Open Access Micro Data project. It is impossible to do state of the art microeconomic research without access to data. Open data provides a low cost distribution technology. It is a right to be demanded by populations to enhance transparency and accountability as such.
Major progress in the MENA region 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).
Caroline Freund, Chief Economic of the MENA region, World Bank, explains that open data is crucial for development at large. She argues that data maybe collected for one purposes, but it maybe suitable for many other purposes and used by other researchers. She also notes that by making data open accessible and reusable, this enhances transparency, efficiency, innovation, and participation. However, it is worth considering down turns of open data and the costs associated to it.
From a researcher view point, ERF fellow Ragui Assad stresses on the importance of having publicly accessible micro data to do research. Without micro data, research on labor issues, human development, inequality and poverty is impossible. He argues that young researchers find these areas inaccessible because no data was made available. He also notes efforts from institutes like ERF, WBI, CAPMAS and many country statistical agencies that help make data archived to international standards and publicly available.
With ERF about to launch their dataset and IFPRI’s recently launched Arab Spatial initiative the question of cooperation comes to mind. 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.
The availability of better and more accessible data for researchers is an important contribution to better analysis and better decisions for greater economic growth and development in MENA. Nevertheless, there is still so much that can be done, and more cooperation is required from different stakeholders to make more data accessible from different sources to inform local policy agendas.