Today was a public holiday in Kenya as muslims celebrate Idd-ul-Adha, the festival that commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to please Almighty God. While the rest of the country took time off, my team and I used the day to bond with each other in the office over chocolate encrusted doughnuts, Mandazi (a Kenyan pastry) and Kenyan tea (which after a light hearted review of the book of Genesis, we decided that God created as a specific expression of love to the world – Kenyan tea is better than all the rest).
We debated over much today. We wondered around many subjects – the nature of belief, for example, and the notion that belief systems operate within the constraints of information that is available and that often belief evolves as experiences change. Our thoughts lingered over ideas of how we could (as a world) promote tolerance more and how often the promotion of tolerance involves self-conquering. We pondered the nature of sacrifice and how it has evolved since Abraham’s time.
Somehow, as Muli our admin assistant and (very talented) cook, served a cabbage masterpiece, we started discussing agriculture. I think the subject arose as we again mulled over the sheer love of God expressed in the Kenyan tea that we were drinking. We agreed it was tragic that consistently less arable land is used for growing tea and other foodcrops and in their stead, housing projects are mushrooming at an alarming rate.
It was these thoughts that called us to reflect on why we do what we do, working with communities in Kenya to not just have access to data – but to generate it themselves and to make sense of it. We recognise that it is harder for everyday people to appreciate data – unless they have collected, analysed and reviewed some of it themselves. Through the exercise of collecting and collating data, issues people face are removed from the abstract.
For most people in our industry, the point of data being easily available is to hold government accountable. This, naturally, cannot be desputed. But upon discussion, we agreed that this is not the only – indeed, not even the first reason why we get communities to work with data at a local level.
For us, data has value in the way that education has value for people. One doesnt necessarily get an education in order to get a job. Many do, but one can be educated and not seek employment. Education opens the mind and empowers people to make better choices in all aspects of their lives. Education for education’s sake still makes the world a better place.
In the same way, data for data’s sake, makes the world a better place. The entrepreneur who uses it to provide a simple solution to everyday issues using data; the social worker who targets her time better to impact the right people; the farmer who grows the produce that will best be bought in the market at the best rates, the teacher who organises the day’s schedule to accomodate the girls who must fetch water before school so that they don’t miss out… data is good – well, because it is.
And so, we are happy to come to work and push harder.