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Unlocking the potential of Zambia's administrative data

Policy paper

Over the past decade, Zambia has experienced sluggish economic growth. From 2010 to 2019, Zambia’s average annual GDP per capita growth was only 1.56%. In the same period, Zambia also struggled to progress in reducing the incidence of poverty. The proportion of Zambia’s population below the national poverty line only decreased by 0.5 percentage points from 2010 to 2022.

Data could help Zambia’s policy stakeholders make effective evidence-based decisions to improve the situation. For example, data can be used to target resources efficiently, monitor policies consistently, and evaluate policies accurately. Zambia’s national policy recognises this: a core ambition of the 8th National Development Plan (8NDP) is to strengthen the National Statistical System (NSS) so policymakers can make well-informed decisions. Doing so will involve improving the supply of, and policy demand for, data – from traditional data (such as surveys or censuses) to modern big data (such as satellite imagery or remote sensors).

One critical source of evidence which should not be overlooked in Zambia’s NSS is administrative data — that is, the data collected as part of providing public services. The high frequency and comprehensive coverage of administrative data make it an extremely informative resource in the policy lifecycle. Administrative data is especially powerful when it complements – or is combined with – other data sources to generate precise policy insights.

Given the potential value of administrative data, three questions emerge for Zambia: To what extent is administrative data used for policymaking? What constrains the use of administrative data? How can these constraints be overcome? The IGC collaborated with Zambia’s Ministry of Finance and National Planning to shed light on these questions. The study involved in-person interviews with fourteen government ministries and the submission of open-ended surveys by thirteen government ministries.