As they increasingly adopt digital infrastructure, public administrations worldwide are increasingly collecting, generating and managing data. Empirical researchers are, at the same time, collaborating more and more with administrations, accessing vast amounts of data, and setting new research agendas. These collaborations have taken place in low-income countries in particular, where administrative data can be a valuable substitute for scarce survey data.
However, the transition to a full-fledged digital administration can be a long and difficult process, sharply contrasting the common leap-frog narrative. Based on observations made during a five-year research collaboration with the Senegalese tax administration, this qualitative case study discusses the main data management challenges the tax administration faces. Much progress has recently been made with the modernisation of the administration’s digital capacity ,and adoption of e-filling and e-payment systems.
However, there remains substantial scope for the administration to enhance data management and improve its efficiency in performing basic tasks, such as the identification of active taxpayers or the detection of various forms of non-compliance. In particular, there needs to be sustained investment in human resources specifically trained in data analysis. Recently progress has been made through creating – in collaboration with the researchers – a ‘datalab’ that now works to improve processes to collect, clean, merge and use data to improve revenue mobilisation.