By Sarah Bonareri Omache and James Kinyanjui, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and producers of citizen-generated data (CGD) have for decades operated separately, given differences in their institutional frameworks and areas of operation. Civil society organizations (CSOs), the main producers of CGD, continued to churn out data through their work, yet this data was previously underutilized even where there are gaps in official statistics. Building upon the common interest in data, collaboration between the national statistical office and CSOs is necessary to bridge data gaps in monitoring of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other development frameworks.
KNBS, the role of which is to maintain and update the SDGs national indicators framework, realized a number of data gaps in SDG reporting and monitoring and identified CGD as a rich source of data for filling some of these gaps.
With support from development partners such as the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (Global Partnership), PARIS21, and UN Women, among others, KNBS began the process of harnessing CGD in 2020. The Global Partnership developed a practical guide for CGD in Kenya, in consultation with KNBS and local CSOs. The guidelines catalyzed conversation between KNBS and CSOs, thus deepening trust and cooperation between government (KNBS and members of the national statistical system, (NSS) and civil society actors, which is essential for promoting the impact of CGD at national level. Both parties were able to discuss and address methodological, reputational and other concerns. KNBS was particularly interested in harnessing CGD to fill data gaps for official reporting on SDGs, and CSOs aimed to amplify citizen voices through their data and leverage KNBS support in generating and validating CGD.
With support from PARIS21, KNBS worked to popularize the CGD guidelines developed by the Global Partnership and exchange learnings with CSOs. As a result, KNBS developed a quality criteria for validating CGD based on guidance from PARIS21 and adopting best practices from the United Kingdom Office for National Statistics and Philippines Statistics Authority. The criteria development process involved a subset of the CSOs, with the hope of casting a wider net in subsequent stages.
The quality criteria was built upon and annexed in the Kenya Statistical Quality Assurance Framework (KeSQAF), which outlined the need for development of guidelines for validation of CGD, and inaugurated in June 2022. Alongside CSOs, KNBS used the quality criteria to evaluate eight citizen-generated datasets. Two of these datasets were evaluated and validated to be fit for official reporting: Usawa Agenda's dataset on 7th Learning Assessment, 2021 and Twaweza's dataset on National Learning Assessment, The validation process was consultative and inclusive, with participation of KNBS, members of the NSS from relevant sectors, CSOs, and the SDGs Kenya Forum. To identify and contact CSOs, KNBS and the SDGs Kenya Forum conducted an inventory of CSOs and the data they produce.
Beyond bureaucracy: Integrating CSOs and CGD in the national statistical system
The quality criteria defines the standards for quality data, the dimensions of quality, and the score allocation matrix that defines how scoring against the dimensions will be implemented. The quality criteria also presents the workflow for CGD from the entry point of the dataset to determining fit for official reporting. The process is particularly important because previously CSOs considered getting into the government system full of bureaucracy and red tape.
The inauguration of the quality criteria and its subsequent use to validate two CGD datasets attracted a lot of attention from civil society, academia, development partners and data users within and outside of government. For example, Kenya Inclusive Governance, Accountability, Performance and Participation (Kenya-IGAPP), a USAID-funded program aimed at promoting civic voter education, election violence prevention and mitigation requested for technical support in data curation from KNBS in July 2022. Similarly, in October 2022, Performance Monitoring for Action contacted KNBS requesting for validation of their data as fit for official reporting. There were also various verbal expressions of interest from stakeholders in various meetings and conferences for inclusion in the CGD processes. Plans to harness CGD were also integrated in the 2019/20 – 2022/23 Kenya Strategy for Development of Statistics as well as in the 2018-2023 KNBS Strategic Plan under the strategic focus area on data quality.
Sharing learning across borders
These efforts on CGD in Kenya also attracted attention from other countries and KNBS was invited to a number of peer learning forums on CGD and share experiences with other countries’ national statistical offices (NSOs). For example, in January 2022, PARIS21, in collaboration with KNBS, Partners for Review, the Global Partnership, and UN Women East and Southern Africa, hosted a regional CGD peer learning session. Participants included representatives from national statistical offices (NSOs), government, civil society, academia, research, and media. The webinar was an opportunity for practitioners to discuss use of CGD by NSOs in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. These countries, represented by NSOs and national civil society actors, shed light on important considerations that accompany collaboration between state and non-state actors. Other opportunities for peer learning included: a virtual Open Hour on CGD with SDGs Kenya Forum, side events of the United Nations Statistical Commission, and the Africa Statistics Commission, and more. Most recently, KNBS attended an expert group meeting organized by UNSD in Bangkok in November 2022, discussing different ways that citizens can be engaged in producing data and making an impact on policies and the possibility of a global mechanism to develop a conceptual framework on citizen engagement and filling SDG data gap.
The next steps on CGD for official reporting involve review of the quality criteria based on CSOs’ feedback and other stakeholders and scrutiny of more datasets following growing interest from CSOs. This also includes working with specific sectors that hugely benefit from CGD, such as gender, disability, and education. To achieve this, engagement with data producers and users in an in-depth gap analysis will be needed.
There are plans with stewardship of KNBS to promote data literacy and capacity building in data curation to ensure that the CSOs improve the quality of data that they produce. Plans are also underway to automate the workflow for CGD, which will ensure seamless flow and efficiency and support evaluation of datasets for validation and feedback. This will also be complemented by an interactive online portal for CGD. To harmonize the processes and synergies, KNBS is in the process of establishing a technical working committee on CGD, who will meet regularly to handle emerging issues on CGD and drive the workflow.