Egyptians gather at a Cairo cafe with graffiti on the walls bearing portraits of Egyptian footballer Mohamed Salah (left) and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz in March 2018. (Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images)

Economic Development in the Age of Big Data

Al-Masry al-Youm, Egypt, June 14

“Data is power.” This is a fact of life that we must accept in Egypt if we are to see our country reassume its position as the leader of the Arab world. We now live in the Age of Information, where data guides the most important decision-making processes pertaining to politics, economics and even social life. The difference between highly developed countries and developing ones is the extent to which they gather and manage accurate and reliable data about all elements of their society. The possession of this information is what allows highly-successful nations to understand the nature and fabric of their societies, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and evaluate their populations’ abilities and needs. Through this kind of data, these countries manage to glean insight about the optimal way in which they can push their peoples forward. If we want Egypt to become a part of the advanced world, we must take this path to development. This must start from the top, with our government. The Egyptian state must collect comprehensive data about all elements of our economy and society. This kind of information collection must become an integral component of the state’s behavior. It is not an exaggeration to say that a nationwide data campaign in Egypt might be the single most important project our government will ever take upon itself. There is truly no way to create long-lasting and continuous knowledge unless there is consistent data collection. Over the past few decades, the Egyptian state has suffered from a severe lack of information about its citizens, their levels of education, their aspirations and goals, and indicators about their well-being and happiness. This prevents the government from responding to the most critical needs of its citizens. Without information, we cannot move Egypt forward. The Egypt we all want, which has its seat in the developed world, is a country whose policies are guided by, and grounded in, real-world evidence. This evidence will only come from the data we collect. This is our most important challenge. – Abd al-Latif al-Menawy (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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