Data is the last great hope for African development, heralded by leaders from the AU to the UN as the new currency of performance and accountability. Smoother data sharing might make chaotic traffic more streamlined, hold leaders accountable for public funds, or even help epidemiologists predict the path of ebola. The universal link between quality data and quality healthcare is particularly instructive. In developed countries like the United States, for example, sharing electronic health records will be fundamental for broadening access to care.
But if African healthcare professionals don’t believe the hype, the skeptic in me can’t blame them. Faced with the complexities of healthcare in developing countries, “open data” seems a reductive and naïve option. Doctors already go to school for eight to ten years, and besides, reporting to cloud-based databases through feature phone technology could distract them from their day jobs. And why on earth would they want to risk sharing patients’ sensitive data anyway?
To answer these questions on public health data, let’s hear some experts on food security: