By Sola Ogundipe

An innovative interactive data system has been launched to track information about health care, water and education facilities as a tool to guide funding for local projects towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs.

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Known as the Nigeria MDGs Information System, it is designed to support the Conditional Grants Scheme programme which is a $1.2 billion effort that offers funding, training and guidance for the Local Government Areas related projects to reduce poverty and improve access to health, education and water services for more than 65 million people.

The public launch of the new system was announced by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on the Millennium Development Goals and The Earth Institute.

The system represents the culmination of four years of partnership between the special assistant’s office and the institute.

The Nigeria MDGs Information System contains data about health clinics, schools and other facilities across the country collected in multiple rounds of surveying over the past three years across all 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria. It covers an estimated 98 percent of health and education facilities in Nigeria.

The site drills deep into the data to pinpoint areas of need, and it provides benchmarks for progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.

Speaking on the development, Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on the MDGs, Precious Kalamba Gbeneol said the Conditional Grants scheme remains a veritable opportunity to maximize use of information and expertise at every level of government and to share the burden of expenditure.

The Federal Government, through the Conditional Grants Scheme, seeks to build the capacities of states and local governments in order to improve governance, transparency and accountability as well as the attainment of the MDGs.”

In a statement, Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs said: “The innovative Nigeria MDGs Information System is an important step forward in Nigeria’s data-driven planning for development.” The system “will be an important contribution of the Government of Nigeria not only for Nigeria’s own development, but also for the benefit of many other governments.”

Many Earth Institute team members are currently working to utilise the tools and experience from the Nigeria project and the Nigeria MDGs Information System to support efforts to contain Ebola in Guinea and other countries in West Africa.

The special assistant’s office estimates that more than 65 million Nigerians benefitted from the 2011 and 2012 rounds of funding from the Conditional Grants Scheme programme (the most recent data available). In those rounds, 113 and 148 Local Government Areas received funds, respectively.

A large number of projects were completed in 261 Local Government Areas. The new website has improved communication between levels of government, increased available funding, improved service delivery and established an accountability mechanism for a federal-to-local funding stream in the country with the biggest economy in Africa.

The site can be used by civil society groups and other agencies to monitor the effectiveness of efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals, and to hold government agencies accountable for those efforts.

Originally designed and hosted by the sustainable Engineering Lab at Columbia University, the Nigeria MDGs Information System website is now fully hosted and operated by the technical team at the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on the Millennium Development Goals.



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