The Basic Uses of Data

The Basic Uses of Data

Any person that passes through a higher institution must conduct research and publish its findings before he is allowed to graduate. For the research to be accepted by the institution, the researcher, the student this time, must identify an existing problem, collect data that are related to it, analyze the data to describe the problem, predict what will likely happen if the problem is not curbed, and then prescribe solutions that may prevent or solve the problem. If he misses any of these steps, he will be asked to make adjustments to his work or, worse, repeat the whole process. This is what we were taught about research and its uses – to solve existing problems. Hence, every form of research, irrespective of who conducted it or where it was conducted, is meant to solve or prevent a problem.

But one thing that is happening in the country today is that many Nigerians do not use research findings judiciously. They only concentrate on data analysis without considering what they should do with the figures, except to buttress their arguments. Some Nigerians fail to look beyond data to the embedded information they contain. By the end of the day, the essence of collecting and publishing those data becomes defeated.

Recently, I attempted to review social media platforms launched by Nigerians for the Nigerian market. It was easier for me to learn about some of these platforms because the suspension of Twitter by the Federal Government of Nigeria got many Nigerians looking for alternative social media platforms that can replace Twitter. I observed and listened to many of them as they ran around, jumping from one platform to another. I also took note of the Nigerians that advertise their platforms online. To be honest, I was happy that Nigerians are making moves to be part of the world’s technological innovations. With that in mind, I decided to help in the little way I can by writing a technical report on Nigerian-made social media platforms.

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However, as I got myself ready to do this job, I began to experience technical challenges. My first and major challenge is that the mobile apps of the four platforms I’ve checked so far are not compatible with any of my mobile phones. The first question I asked myself was, “If these platforms are meant for the Nigerian market, how come these developers did not want to include all the versions of the operating systems of the mobile phones used in the country?” At least they should have created a Lite version, don’t you think? But the two things that have been hitting my mind ever since I made this discovery were that it is too expensive for them to create such an app that can be accessed by all the internet-accessing phones in the country (at least most of them) or, worse, they don’t have an idea of the versions of the mobile operating systems used by many Nigerians. This is where these developers should have utilized data, if they had sourced it.

But let’s look at the data released about Nigeria by government and non-governmental organizations. What do people, especially Nigerians, see when they look at those figures and infographics? Do they see opportunities or doom? Do they use them to solve problems or create more problems? Do they even know the essence of those data? Maybe they thought those organizations released those data and information to entertain or scare them. How many Nigerians have ever used those data to make good decisions towards wealth creation, health, security, and so on?

I think Nigerians need proper orientation on how to utilize data concerning the country’s economic, political, social, security, and industrial status. Agencies, such as the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), do not publish data so that Nigerians can use them to support their arguments, throw insults at one another, curse the government, and then spell doom for the country. They should be taught how to use free data published by organizations to make informed business decisions.

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