The world’s newest nation – South Sudan - gained independence on 9 July 2011, becoming the 193rd member state of the United Nations. The country’s excitement and jubilation over a long-awaited new beginning are tempered by the reality of significant challenges ahead in meeting the needs of more than 8 million citizens emerging from a season of historic destruction, displacement and neglect.
While South Sudan struggles with low human development indicators, it is also endowed with many natural resources such as oil and fertile agricultural land. Obviously, the challenge for the new government is determining how best to harness these resources to develop the country, achieve stabilization and growth, and provide peace dividends to the people of South Sudan.
Since 2007, the DevInfo Support Group has been helping to lay the foundation for a data-driven decision-making approach in South Sudan. An initial DevInfo training workshop was conducted in 2007 for officials from various South Sudanese agencies, followed by additional cycles of trainings. Most recently, within a month of the country’s independence in July 2011, the DevInfo Support Group arrived on site to assist the National Bureau of Statistics, with UNICEF support, in building national capacity in DevInfo use and in creating a customized country database to support the monitoring of national development.
The first thrust of this recent capacity building focused on teaching participants from various ministries how to use the UN-endorsed DevInfo database system to search for data and create tables, graphs and maps, with the objective of supporting future monitoring and evaluation efforts. The second thrust focused on training future database administrators how to develop a national database, using data drawn from existing databases as well as from other surveys and reports.
With the introduction of DevInfo in South Sudan, the young country and nascent government are getting a head start in using cutting-edge IT tools to support nation-building efforts.