This blog post is inspired by a mosquito that looked like it was on its first rodeo, as I stared at the ceiling of the (barely) 2 star hotel room that my team and I had to lodge in, so that we could attend the Devolution Conference in Kakamega in Western Kenya. There is a huge shortage of accommodation spaces here as delegates from all over the country have descended on this small usually serene town.
The mosquito sounded shy and seemed to miss its target and I kept wondering whether I should give it a hand or just swat it. What if it was a decoy, to take my attention away to allow other mosquitoes to feast upon other parts of me as soon as I was asleep?
As the participants gathered themselves in the well organised Devolution Conference 2018, I couldn’t help but think how similar we were to the mosquito that I spent the night with. We all had a sting that needed to draw blood from the various government officials represented here. Like the mosquito, some of us were new to the game and we were trying to navigate to see where we could land and nibble.
We organised ourselves to showcase some of our flagship transparency projects that we implement together with counties, including Open County and Devolution Hub. Unlike the mosquito, our mission is to support counties to be more transparent and to develop closer relationships with their citizens, and not to pull them down. These two projects have been running for last two years and have made tremendous progress where data and citizen engagement is concerned.
Working closely with the Council of Governors (the true owners of the projects), and with support from the World Bank, we have been able to gather data on the all counties periodically from different sources including their websites to highlight their work. Some data has been scanty and difficult to find but we have found it to still be usable. It has especially been difficult to find and collate county budget data because counties generally develop PDF reports, but do not regularly release the data that produces the reports. Also, another challenge that we have been faced with is that the counties do not have a standardized structure for data – or even the reports – and as a result, we have to gather data in a more painstaking way than usual. Our intention is show how data could be crafted to bring meaningful output that both government and public could participate and engage with.
As part of our preparation, we have published a number of info-graphics and animated visualizations as conversation starters. Do take the time to view them on our Youtube, twitter and Facebook profiles.
We are really looking forward to seeing how the next couple of days will proceed and we are truly excited to have the opportunity to engage with county officials, civil society organisations, and citizens to showcase Kenya County Data.