Use and misuse of data in advocacy, media and opinion polls in Africa: Realities, challenges and opportunities
This article offers a reflective perspective of the uses and misuses of data and statistics in public communication and development as a construct of democracy. It begins by situating data use in light of the “big data” revolution characterised by devolution and globalisation of information. Drawing on illustrations from advocacy, journalism and political corruption, the article demonstrates that despite the positive uses of data by activists and journalists, the dissemination of incorrect data has grave consequences for public opinion formation and digital social engagement. From the analysis, the article argues that generators, users and recipients of data need a mind-set for data accuracy and fact-checking, especially in a digital age which is a mine-field for mass misinformation. It calls for more training in data journalism, alignment of data in the public sector and increased responsibility for data generating institutions and fact checking organisations. Finally, we advocate for stricter regulation of election opinion polls to avoid misinformation and manipulation of the electorate, which has serious consequences for
democracy in Africa.
Keywords: data revolution, data journalism, data for development, public communication, misinformation, public opinion