Experts attending the International Evidence Conference have expressed concern that while a lot of data is being generated to guide decision-making, a lot of technocrats still don’t pay attention leading to poor decision-making.
Speaking at the opening plenary, Rose Orongi, director of public policy, and knowledge translation at the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) said they have developed tools or checklists to help governments in Africa institutionalize evidence use but have realized that in some places efforts end as soon as the funding ends as there are largely no knowledge transfer centers.
In Uganda, Orongi says, they have mentored selected officials in the ministry of Health and worked with them to revise their management and governance guidelines to always show the evidence they have used to make key decisions in their various departments and divisions.
She adds that while they push for technocrats to adopt evidence as this solves wastage of resources, there is a double challenge that researchers care more about publishing their work in journals than ensuring that their evidence gets to be used by the public to create change.
However, according to Rhona Mijumbi, director of the Centre for Rapid Evidence Synthesis based at Makerere University, the technocrats who have appreciated the use of evidence, find it easier to explain why they opted for specific decisions and not others. As a result, she says, they obtained feedback that it became easier for technocrats involved in their mentoring to defend their actions during accountability committee meetings in parliament.
For her to guarantee uptake, interventions should be demand-driven where policymakers come to researchers for solutions and not experts developing guidelines are evidence that may not be applicable to technocrats. The conference which is held every two years took place in Uganda for the first time. It gathered researchers from 20 countries across Africa.
Experts who work for policy thinktanks across the continent and technocrats are sharing lessons and doing checks to see whether projects undertaken in the previous years are in line with the agenda of using evidence to develop policies.