This quote from Tilley’s book highlights that the “Africa has no data/bad data” rhetoric has been around since at least the Berlin conferenc: “The head of the Russian delegation, Count Knapist, told the conference that “precise data on the climate of Africa are absolutely wanting, whereas the [International] Meteorological Committee have already gathered them in every other part of the world.” It would be a tremendous service to science if the conference might “facilitate the establishment of a meteorological station in the upper regions of the Congo.”” (54).
Working in the 19th and 20th centuries, Tilley largely thinks about the “technologies” at the time (increased travel around the global, science fairs and events, etc.) that brought about greater cross-cultural interpenetration. She does not talk explicitly about the data practices.
Biruk highlights that the demographic surveys she studies "raise the specter of the exploitation, extractive logics, racism, and ethnocentrism that have underlain science in Africa," (22). Citing Riedmann (1993) she highlights that global demography presumes a "right to invade" in the name of knowledge production. She seems to be suggesting here that the colonial logics of science continue to pervade.
Biruk highlights that "a main point of controversy between anthroplogists and demographers is how they might answer the question: "what is the relationship between data and social reality it claims to represent or count?" (20). She notes the history of the field of demography as emerging as a way to govern (statistics as a tool through which the state sees and knows its citizens). So the data that demographers generate needs to be seen as objective, "clean", and reflecting reality. She compares this to how anthropologists view data which is as a classificatory exercise that creates reality or "makes up" people. However, there is a contradiction inherent there because anthropologists are also in the "data making" game and also have particular investments in ideas of a particular kind of "good" data.