The past five years have shown us how fragile democracy can be, not only in Nigeria but around the world; we have even witnessed its deterioration in long-established democracies like the United States.
Autocratic leaders, politicians with subversive intentions, and tyrants-in-waiting have found ways to manipulate mainstream and social media to their ends. They do it through news blackouts, disinformation, fake news, and ‘alternative facts.’
For democracy to work, indeed for democracy to survive, we need an informed electorate. We need citizens who are able to evaluate and understand sometimes complex information. And therefore, we need citizens who have easy access to current, accurate, and comprehensible information—including statistics.
For that, we need a responsible free press. We need a publication such as the Premium Times. We need a trusted source for the best and most current information and unbiased data, data that can be assembled to help leaders shape policy that works.
It was in the light of the above that in early July this year (2021), the American University of Nigeria (AUN) and Premium Times began discussions about creating a platform that will enable experts (academics) to interrogate reliable data and use them to provide insightful analyses that can help authorities and citizens make accurate and informed decisions. In the months that followed, authorities and team members at our two organisations held several physical and virtual meetings that yielded what we now call The AUN-Premium Times Data Hub.
The AUN-Premium Times Data Hub is a unique collaboration between higher education and media to inject more data-driven analyses into Nigerian civic discussions and journalism. The Data Hub will use reliable data and analysis to build an evidence base for change.
This Hub will present data and analyses, and a platform for the discussion of every major sphere of development, including gender, poverty, education, health, economic growth and employment, governance, equity, democracy, peace and security and the role of technology. We will present the best available data on Nigeria’s current status, provide our own analyses, and put forward solutions to specific problems.
The need for valid, reliable data that will inform citizens and policy makers has never been greater. We live in a dangerous time when “fake news” has infiltrated all forms of media and education and civic discourse. The problem is global and it can have life or death consequences.
Misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines, for example, has cost many lives all over the world. It has extended our current global pandemic. Specious data used by climate change deniers has cost us irreplaceable time in combating what the responsible international scientific consensus has determined to be an existential threat to all mankind.
Make no mistake. The collection and responsible analyses of the sorts of massive data required for contemporary policy formation is very difficult. It is necessarily the job of highly trained specialists who must be of the utmost integrity. And yes, people often distrust statistics, and they are right–citizens are always right–to raise questions.
Just such questioning is precisely what academics are best trained to do. It is our job. It is our job to evaluate sources, to question research methodologies, to poke and probe and to find the most reliable data and information from peer reviewed sources. It is our job to search for the truth.
So, we bring this expertise to the table. We will engage in this unique partnership between a university and a news organization. The joint goal of the American University of Nigeria and Premium Times in establishing the AUN-Premium Times Data Hub is simply to seek the truth. It is to seek the most accurate and reliable information and data that we can find, and to present and analyse that data in a way that will inform you, our citizen readers.
We are doing this in the hope that it can help guide you toward action, and in the hope that over time, it may help guide the decisions of our policymakers. We hope to build an evidence base for positive economic, social and political change.
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