Role of statistics in Ugandans’ day to day lives

A few days ago, as His Excellency President Yoweri Kagutta Museveni read his nth State of the Nation address, he got to a point where his speech writers had included statistics to back an argument in the speech.

He paused a while and then explained that he felt uncomfortable reading out loud those statistics for he was suspicious of them. He promised to first crosscheck them; and then he proceeded on to make his address.

Honestly, I do not think that that was acceptable behaviour by the Executive, but then again, he was making his address to and in the presence of the newly elected and sworn in 11th Parliament of Uganda.

I was listening via radio and so I cannot say whether the facial and other non-verbal communication of the members of parliament did send the President a message of their objection and displeasure, but I highly doubt so.

Why is this important? If the statistics the President skipped to read out loud were the basis of the argument(s) the President made in his speech, and the statistics are faulty, it de facto nullifies that particular section of his speech and brings to question the entire speech.

This is exactly where I am at, for example, with the Statistical Abstract 2018/2019 for my ancestral district, Pallisa. I wanted to establish the population size and its geographic distribution for our Pallisa District, so that I may appreciate matters of equality and fairness in representation and service delivery; governance really.

For about 30 minutes I stalled as the figures that I had extracted from the Pallisa statistical abstract and placed in an Excel Spreadsheet were not adding up to the totals that were published in the abstract.

In order to move forward, it dawned on me that I should check the original source of the statistics, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics’, publications on the 2014 Population Census. And within minutes I had found the error.

Butebo County was removed from Pallisa District, in order to create a new district and those who prepared the Pallisa statistical abstract only removed the Butebo numbers from the breakdown, but neglected to do so from the total.

The total population for Pallisa with Butebo included was 386,890 people (188,125 male and 198,765 female). Without Butebo, and which is the correct population as per the 2014 census, the population for Pallisa is 275,128 people (133,945 male and 141,183 female); and which is exactly 386,890 people minus the 11,762 people of Butebo County.

Which begs the question, what statistics are the analysis in the Pallisa District Statistical District Abstract 2018/2019 based on? Can we rely on it to make informed judgement and decisions? If the statistics are faulty, how does it then impact on budget provisioning and delivery of services?

Many questions come to mind. And at the end of the day, my conviction is strengthened of the importance of knowing the veracity of the data, the basis on which summations and thesis are made about our day to day life.

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