As a country, we cannot find a solution to problems we’re unable to identify. Today, nearly 75 years after attaining modernity, we still struggle as a country to get our steps right in advancing as a modern nation.
We can pity ourselves on self-sympathy about having a vicious national crisis that tore through the social fabric of our nation from 1979 to 2003. We can reminisce how self-destruct that crisis of a 10-year military misrule and 14-year of horrendous civil wars wrecked the national infrastructures, caused mayhem to the population and robbed a whole generation of their future by denying them education and by extension creating a social burden to the nation. What we cannot do and have not successfully done is, if we have actually got up as a country, dusted ourselves from the fall and moved on as a modern nation. We have not looked to gain advantages that would eclipse the void caused by the crisis and civil wars. We’ve done so little and are prepared to do so very little in the right directions.
In a world today where decisions are made based on available data, our country tend to lag on data mining. For example, in the last 40 years, the only public school in Paynesville has been the Paynesville Community School (PCS). That school building remains nearly the same size when it was built. If we took the population of Paynesville, it has grown far beyond what it was before. So why have there not been any new school building or an extension to the existing one? Is it due to a demography that shows only elderly have moved into that part of the country?
Certainly there are more young people in that City. It is only that the data is either unknown to the policy makers or is known and being ignored by the policy makers. Paynesville is not alone. There are other growing cities in the country. Take Ganta, the cross border town in northern Nimba county. That town has been exploding since. Do policy makers recognize the prospects of such a town and how to enable growth in Ganta that brings ripple to the national economy?
Until we have census in ten years, it seems bleak that the country tracks the movement of the population on where they go and what they do and what their interests are. As a country, we are completely oblivious of who lives within our borders, what they do and how they do what they do. It is obvious we are oblivious as we have no national identity scheme that preserves personal identifiable information. There is no way that we can track employment, income, investment that are not of multinational concessions or of huge capital investment; ones done on small scales. We are unlike still to know the accurate numbers of college graduates in the country and who’s unemployed and who’s not.
Data is the missing link to our national development goals. If we can’t have data we cannot identify our problems and find solutions to them. Take for example, in Liberia these people call themselves either jobless or poor: taxi drivers; Pen-pen drivers, fishermen, mechanics, builders, carpenters, traders, commercial real estate owners and other owners of businesses with fast and high daily turnovers. Some of these people hardly pay taxes to government, let alone contribute to community development initiatives. We are a nation that failed ourselves. That failure begins with the unavailability of a national program to collect data: no national identification number; no street addresses.
Until we get to know ourselves by identifying ourselves, categorizing ourselves, structuring ourselves, we will not stop failing ourselves.