The Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana on January 29, 2016 inaugurated its state of the art research facility, the Measurement, Learning and Evaluation (MLE) Unit.
This research unit also known as the MLE Unit provides innovative research to development institutions within the West African sub-region and students of the University of Ghana as well. Simply put, the MLE Unit makes it possible to collect data from anywhere in the world with internet access and makes it available in the shortest possible time. The inauguration ceremony was graced by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, representatives from the University, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Millennium Development Authority, among several others.
The 8-terabit data storage capacity unit offers data resources and business intelligence solutions for researchers, and students as well as interested parties from both the public and private business community. Its cutting-edge research and technical assistance services support institutions engaged in developmental projects in Ghana and within the West African sub-region. As part of best practices by ISSER, the MLE Unit has a cleaner energy alternative as back up- solar energy. It has a robust data security and back up, plus an emergency fire alert system that automatically puts out any emerging fire and sends alerts directly to the mobile phones of staff there.
Director of the institute, Prof. Felix Asante, told journalists at the facility’s launch that the MLE Unit has key objectives. First is to strengthen technological infrastructure and innovations, secondly to improve advocacy communications and network, and finally to establish regional partnerships and networks. ‘The MLE Unit will support the work of ISSER by providing operational services across all aspects of survey research and practice: from study design to data collection and storage, analyses and disseminations of findings. This state of the art data centre ensures data is managed, stored and analysed locally and in the long-term to leverage and enhance ISSER’s national position and credibility to support the development of a sustainable regional network. The MLE will partner Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Liberia and Sierra Leone and other countries within the sub region. This partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will help ISSER become a world class research institute that can play a long-term regional role in agricultural policy research, monitoring and evaluation that will include the capacity to mentor other related organisations. The University of Ghana will continue to support the new development at ISSER and make the resource available to the entire university community. It is our hope and expectation that research from the unit and the university will be used by policy makers increasingly to influence decisions made, and policy makers in turn will invest more in data gathering and analyses. Through this synergy we will be able to provide the policies that will yield better outcome for the nation.’
‘The MLE Unit in its set-up face in the past one and a half years, has worked with AGRA, IFPRI and the World Bank to mention a few, raking in about 40 000 dollars. In the area of capacity building the unit in 2014 organised the first regional partners workshop and participants from Nigeria, Mali Cote D’Ivoire and others took active part. The unit also organised staff of the Ghana Statistical Service and selected second and third year PhD students of the University of Ghana. ISSER has engaged a UK based firm ALIGNE, to develop a business plan to for the Institute as well as the MLE Unit. This is part of mechanisms for sustenance even when donor funds for the MLE Unit run out. The Unit will continue to provide services for funded projects for a fee to also help raise funds. The Think Tank Initiative (TTI) of the IDRC of Canada is supporting the unit in 2016 with 20,000 Canadian dollars to support the self-financing strategy.’
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, said he was pleased with the work of ISSER. ‘ISSER’s work reflects the changes going on in the world of data analyses. Tax payers are highly interested in knowing what happens to the aid they send to developing countries, that the aid is purposeful and yields outcomes they envisaged. ISSER has over the years provided evidence in policy making and the inauguration of the unit was a step in the right direction towards this end. ISSER has been involved in gathering data for many years; apart from the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) no other organisation in Ghana has collected more data. Gathering data is very expensive and researchers are entrusted with using data more efficiently. Prof Aryeetey said ISSER’s efforts provides opportunity to modernize the way we gather data and analyse them using some of the most sophisticated methods.
The ultra-modern data centre has been established with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Dr Elvis Fraser, Senior Programme Officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said the inauguration of the MLE Unit is an exciting milestone in the partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and ISSER. ‘I am honoured to be here to mark the occasion. The Foundation believes that strong partnerships, like the one with ISSER, are critical to reaching our goals and achieving meaningful change across the globe. About three years ago, the Foundation approached ISSER to explore how we might work together. We approached ISSER because of their credibility and solid reputation within the field, and their association with an outstanding institution such as the University of Ghana. The partnership with ISSER has been very fruitful, and is a model of the partnerships that the Foundation seeks to cultivate. This is due to ISSER’s dedication, commitment, honest and open communication, flexibility, and excellent stewardship of the Foundation’s resources. Additionally, they are a great team – fun, warm, engaging and always welcoming.
There have been several key achievements over the past few years, both tangible and intangible. They have developed a first-rate training center with excellent connectivity and equipment, including the use of solar power. They have established partnerships with key institutions in the region. In addition, they have cultivated credibility, instilled confidence, and built an outstanding reputation across the continent and beyond.
In closing, we are excited for a long and fruitful partnership with ISSER. There is an old African proverb that is engraved on the wall at the Foundation’s office in Seattle, and it truly captures our partnership with ISSER. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We look forward to going far together, and truly making impactful change in the world.’
AGRA’s Head of Research, Dr. David Sarfo Ameyaw, indicated that the data centre will provide evidence for better decisions toward improving socio-economic lives within the West African sub-region. “We need good data to help decisions that support agricultural transformation across the continent. AGRA will utilise the centre and ensure that this facility becomes productive to support the cause of regional development.’
V-C Prof Ernest Aryeetey declared the state of the art ultra-modern research center- the Measurement Learning and Evaluation Unit duly inaugurated.
Some collaborators also shared messages of solidarity after the official inauguration. An economist of Millennium Development Authority MiDA Dr Kofi Marfo and a collaborator since 2005 indicated his joy about the establishment of the centre that he felt would go a long way to strengthen the research carried out by ISSER and its partners that would make use of the Unit.
ISSER would like to thank its staff and senior members, the University of Ghana leadership and community, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, University of Ghana Computing Services (UGCS), all development partners, the media and the public.