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Humans · Technology

Citizen-generated data in sustainable development

May 29th, 2017
in:Humans, Technology
by:Cherotich Kenei
located in:Kenya, Uganda
tags:citizen-generated data, Resource Trackers, Sustainable Development

2014 saw the United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s High-Level Panel call for a data revolution. This was in a bid to create data that would be useful in the decision-making process, to help achieve the ambitious developmental goals set by the organisation.

One way to fulfill this call was through the use of citizen-generated data, a platform that allowed the ordinary citizen to play a role in the generation of information that would better assist him/her and the local government to generate data that would better assist in the effectiveness of policies implemented in different sectors as per the findings.

Moreover, technological advances have continued to spearhead the revolution in the collection of information. Initiatives such as open data and SMS - based citizen reporting systems have been used to collect data from the public and thus contribute in the acquirement of metadata that can be useful in the realisation of UN's sustainable development goals (SDG's)

However, there is still a gap in the authenticity of citizen-generated data, leading to the need for more evidence on the impact such generated data could have in the influencing of policy and service delivery. It is because of this that over a year ago a research was carried out in Kenya and Uganda to find out the impact citizen-data had on the quality of life.

In Kenya, the Ministry of Education and the National Taxpayers Association partnered together to find out whether parental inclusion in school activities will help build in performance output by schools and students. Focus, was based on increasing parental engagement in education by using School Report Cards, a yearly scorecard that allowed parents to assess the performance of their school in ten areas that relate to education quality.

Uganda on other hand under Development Research and Training (DRT) a non-governmental organisation, focused on the impact citizen generated data had on development standards at the grassroots level. Community feedback was based on Resource Trackers (volunteers supported by DRT) whose role was trailing and identifying key community resources including financial and in-kind allocations made through the central and local governments, NGOs and donors and provide dependable feedback to duty bearers and service providers on the delivery of projects within the community.

The findings provided much-needed insight to the potential citizen generated data could have in aiding development. Furthermore, it showcased that generated data was influential in the accountability of resource allocation, service delivery and governmental response. Significantly, the data showed a correlation in the uptake of data by the government based on two factors: One being the quality relationship producers of citizen-generated data had with the government and secondly, the degree to which the initiatives related to existing policy priorities within the government.

Interestingly, the study also showed a willingness within citizens to contribute to the collection of data to aid their wellbeing. Furthermore, in Kenya, the data showed the potential to assist in policy implementation, a good example of this was seen when parliamentarians from over five constituencies lost their political seats due to poor management of development funds, while in another case a stalled school building project was completed when citizens high lightened it on the report card as a failing project.

Moreover, in Uganda, observation showed a distinct improvement in service delivery and accessibility at the local level. This was in direct relation to the citizens’ motivation to engage in data collection.

Remarkably, the study showed that indeed citizen-generated data could play a key role in aiding development, for it helped fill in the gaps created by the lack access to timely information. For one, when it came to the community, data generated provided much-needed support in the decision-making process; while at the macro level (governance) it was capable of acting as a monitoring and evaluation tool, in checking whether achievements are qualitatively felt at the micro-level.

However, despite all the positivity, the study showed in support of citizen-generated data, doubts about this method of data generation still exist. Amongst these doubts, was reluctance by official data stakeholders to acknowledge that non-official actors (citizens) could contribute relevant data for aiding development and if the data collected could be accepted as authentic.

Undeniably, though representativeness, standardisation and quality assurance of citizen-generated data still remain a concern, it is paramount that all players in the data arena (official and non-official data producers) work together in finding a solution for the gaps created and answer some questions brought up through such an initiative.

Ssanyu Rebecca a senior program officer at DRT states, “ Further research to develop typologies and case studies of citizen-generated data initiatives and the data they produce and the data gaps they fill is vital. This being the only way to ensure that an official recognition for the data generated from all key players is recognised as authoritative.” Additionally, ensuring that produced data stands at the forefront in championing of progressive positive change and development for the future generations.

For now, the world is a small global village and with technological evolutions and revolutions proving a constant, engaging at a technological standpoint, could be the very solution this world needs to tackle its problems. Indeed, a technologically inclusive governmental system would mean, that no man would be left behind in the fight for better service delivery in governance and development.

Article written by:
Cherotich Kenei
Author
Current Map: Our coverage
Initiatives such as open data and SMS – based citizen reporting systems have been used to collect data from the public and thus contribute in the acquirement of metadata that can be useful in the realisation of UN’s sustainable development goals (SDG’s).
In Kenya, the Ministry of Education and the National Taxpayers Association partnered together to find out whether parental inclusion in school activities will help build in performance output by schools and students.
A technologically inclusive governmental system would mean, that no man would be left behind in the fight for better service delivery in governance and development.

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