Strengthening Policy Engagement and Advocacy with Data in the Nigerian context

Conversations during a capacity-building workshop on Data Values in Katsina State, Nigeria. Credit: Yazid Mikail.

Yazid Mikail is one of seven Data Values Advocates working to advance the global movement for Data Values in local communities. In this post, Yazid shares his reflections on a workshop aimed at promoting the Data Values Manifesto and bringing a diverse group of actors together to work toward a fair data future.

As I stood before a room filled with passionate people in Katsina State, Nigeria, something remarkable unfolded. A traditional leader from Jibya told us this workshop had made him realize that the biggest social challenges faced by our state are intertwined with the lack of open and responsive data systems. It was a powerful moment, a testament to the immense potential of data.

“I have never attended a capacity-building workshop that has an immediate impact on me like this one — it changes my perspective on different aspects, especially problems in my community, state, and local governments,” he said. 

In an era fueled by information and technology, the power of data has emerged as a driving force behind societal progress. Nowhere is this more evident than in Katsina State, a state in Northern Nigeria, where the convergence of data and policy has the potential to transform the way governance is approached and decisions are made. As the world increasingly recognizes the value of open and responsive data systems and data-driven approaches, it becomes imperative for Katsina and other Nigerian states facing societal challenges to harness the potential of this invaluable resource, leveraging it to strengthen policy engagement and advocacy to improve lives.


Why we need a people-centric approach to data 

Data, in its various forms, has the remarkable ability to transcend mere numbers and charts. It can illuminate the complex challenges faced by society, providing insights that pave the way for evidence-based decision-making and policy formulation. When wielded effectively, data empowers policymakers, advocacy groups, and stakeholders to address critical issues of precision, transparency, and accountability.

However, despite its immense potential, the transformative power of data still needs to be explored in Katsina State and beyond. There exists a pressing need to bridge the gap between data availability and accessibility, and its utilization for policy engagement and advocacy. This challenge is what inspired me to become a Data Values Advocate, to work toward the  implementation of this project in Katsina State. 

As a Data Values Advocate with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, I led an inclusive capacity-building workshop on Data Values in Katsina State. The workshop, titled “Building a Data-Driven Society: Strengthening Policy Engagement and Advocacy with Data in Katsina State,” focused on delivering the Data Values Manifesto. In this post, I’ll explain how the workshop strengthened stakeholder capacity to leverage data to create a fairer future for all and hopefully inspire you to take similar action in your community.

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Equipping local stakeholders to advocate for a fair data future

The workshop explored two key aspects crucial to strengthening policy engagement and advocacy with data. First, investing in open and responsive data systems enables people to benefit from data and promotes transparency, collaboration, and engagement among civil society organizations (CSOs), governments, and citizens. Secondly, investing in enabling people to shape how they are represented in data ensures that data is collected and managed in a way that respects privacy, engages communities, and addresses their needs. This people-centric approach leads to more accurate and representative data, fostering trust and enabling targeted interventions.

The workshop included more than 30 participants, including representatives from the state Bureau of Statistics, the state Budget and Planning Ministry, people living with disabilities, youth groups, community and traditional leaders, and CSO leaders. It was an intensive, one-day workshop that equipped the participants with knowledge on Data Values, evidence-based advocacy, and ways to engage policymakers to achieve the Data Values Manifesto. 

One important outcome of the workshop was a strategy document, co-created by participants, which will serve as an advocacy tool to further engage policymakers in the state to ensure increased investment in open and responsive data systems and enabling people to shape how they are represented in data. The document contains key asks and recommendations to policymakers on how they can create a fairer data future for all. It also includes the stakeholders’ commitment to foster partnerships and work toward a common goal. 

This essential first step in the journey toward building a data-driven society in Katsina State holds immense promise for advancing governance, policy engagement, and advocacy. The integration of data into decision-making processes has the potential to revolutionize how challenges are identified, solutions are devised, and progress is measured.

By embracing a data-driven approach through investment in open and responsive data systems and in people to shape how they are represented in data, Katsina State can empower its policymakers and stakeholders to make informed decisions that have a lasting positive impact on the lives of its citizens. Data-driven policy engagement and advocacy enable transparency, accountability, and inclusivity, ensuring that the voices of all segments of society are heard and considered. It facilitates evidence-based strategies, enabling targeted interventions and resource allocation, ultimately leading to more effective governance and improved socio-economic outcomes.

The coalition of CSOs formed during the workshop will lead policy engagements with policymakers in the state using the strategy document developed at the workshop as a tool. This includes visits to the State Ministry of Budget and Planning and the State Bureau of Statistics to present the strategy document to ensure effective integration of ‘asks’ into the state planning processes and secure policymakers’ commitments.

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 Confronting challenges to a fair data future

Building open and responsive data systems and a data-driven society comes with challenges. Data quality, accessibility, privacy, timeliness, representation, and digital infrastructure must be addressed to create an environment that fosters data-driven decision-making. Additionally, capacity-building and awareness programs should be implemented to equip policymakers, civil society, and the general public with the skills and knowledge necessary to leverage data effectively.

Realizing a data-driven society in Katsina State and beyond requires collaboration and partnerships among government agencies, research institutions, technology providers, and civil society. By establishing robust data governance frameworks, promoting data literacy, and investing in data infrastructure, open and responsive data systems, and in people to shape how they are represented in data, Katsina State can position itself at the forefront of data-driven innovation, harnessing the transformative power of information to shape its future.

Just as in Katsina state, regions across Africa’s most populous nation need this kind of program, and we are committed to delivering the message of the need to co-create a fair data future across the country with more support and partnerships.

As you reach the end of this blog on the little and big steps I am taking to change narratives in my country, I encourage you to start doing the same by taking little and big steps as well. Together, we can shift how data is collected, used, and governed to ensure its effective use for policy decision-making and people’s protection and create a fairer data future for all. 

Yazid is a Nigerian data scientist and Data Values Advocate who regularly blogs about policy challenges facing the country. Find all of his writing on

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