The original version of this article appeared on the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI).
In developed countries, we are accustomed to having access to long and detailed records on weather and climate conditions, demographics, disease incidence, and many other types of data. Decisionmakers use this information for a variety of societal benefits: they spot trends, fine-tune public health systems, and optimize crop yields, for example. Researchers use it to test hypotheses, make forecasts, and tweak projections from computer models. What’s more, much of these data are just a mouse click away, for anyone to access for free (see examples for climate
Across much of Africa, however, it’s a different story. By most measures, Africa is the most “data poor” region in the world. Wars and revolutions, natural and manmade disasters, extreme poverty, and unmaintained infrastructure, have left massive gaps in socioeconomic and environmental data sets. Reliable records of temperature, rainfall, and other climate variables are scarce or nonexistent. If they do exist, they’re usually deemed as proprietary and users must pay to get access. This is not an inconsequential matter. Without readily available, reliable data, policy makers’ ability to make smart, well-informed decisions is hobbled.
The problem of data access persisted even in Ethiopia, regarded as having one of the better meteorological services on the continent. Thanks to the recent efforts of Tufa Dinku, a climate scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, the situation has improved considerably.
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Video Credit: Overview of Ethiopia Climate Maprooms, courtesy of IRI.