5 Lessons from a NSO: Strengthening Citizen Generated Data in Kenya

Sarah Omache, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in consultation with the relevant stakeholders is in the process of operationalizing the use of Citizen Generated Data for official reporting. As an NSO, we are interested in exploring the use of CGD in order to fill existing data gaps, in particular, in the monitoring and reporting of the SDG indicators. In addition, we see CGD as valuable in providing granular data for planning, monitoring and implementation of development initiatives at the sub-national and hyperlocal level. This is invaluable for tracking the progress of the decade old devolved system of government in Kenya.

I have played a pivotal role of forging collaboration between the producers of CGD and the NSO, which is the role of the Directorate of Statistical Coordination and Methods that I am part of. We have achieved a number of milestones in this process. We have successfully established contact and solid relationships with the relevant stakeholders, carried out training of our statisticians on CGD and very importantly developed a quality criterion to validate CGD- which we hope to include in our forthcoming Kenya Statistical Quality Assurance Framework (KeSQAF). We have had very constructive discussions around the kind of data available from the Civil Society Organizations and the data gaps that they meet. This process, while still at the preliminary stage, has been eye opening and as a champion of the process I have drawn a number of lessons. I will dwell on five key lessons I have learned so far.

1. The role of the National Statistical Office in the data value chain goes beyond data production

Production of official statistics over the years has focused on the statistical value chain (from data collection to dissemination) which is limited to the scope of production of statistics. However, information on the use of statistics (uptake and impact) is important to inform the kind of statistics produced. The process of operationalizing CGD reveals that most of the data produced by non-state actors responding to the use side of the data value chain. It is imperative for the NSO to steward the National Statistical System towards collaboration with the non-state actors in the production of statistics and advocate for a user focused statistical value chain.

2. Closing data gaps cannot be left only to the NSO

The available budget that supports the production of official statistics using data from surveys allows disaggregation up-to county level. However, data needs at the grassroots cannot be ignored, particularly by the devolved governments. In fact, due to unavailability of highly disaggregated data, some county governments have used CGD in the development of their sub-national plans and monitoring and evaluation of development initiatives in their domains.

3. Data quality should be everybody’s business: the NSO is a great steward

As a steward for data quality, it is inevitable for the NSO to ensure that CGD to be used for a particular purpose meets the dimensions of quality to be considered fit for that particular purpose. Our work to develop the criterion to validate the CGD- was our way of providing this guidance and assurance of quality for CGD. We know that we cannot have enough statisticians to support all the producers of data in the country. But with a set of guidelines and frameworks, organizations can use these to improve the quality of their data. I must add that developing these frameworks should be done through a participatory and consultative manner. This builds buy-in and ownership and trust. The key ingredients to coordination and collaboration.

4. CGD is a strong statistical advocacy tool

From the interactions we have had with the producers of CGD, I have learned to appreciate that CGD raises questions in everyone’s mind on the role that it plays in availing quality information for decision making. This in turn emphasizes the importance of investing in the production of statistics both by the government and non-governmental stakeholders. With CGD, the role of the individual as a producer and/or user of statistical information emerges as the foundation for sustainability in production of statistics. It allows people to have power to inform the decisions that are made. Beyond producing CGD, working with non-state actors also gives us the NSO more players on our side as we work on advocacy for statistics.

5. Understanding the needs of our users of official statistics

The producers of CGD are also users of official statistics. Understanding the need of non-state actors guides the NSO in identifying the users and working to engage them meaningfully. I argue that these producers collect CGD because they cannot find the data they are looking for through official statistics. This tells us something as the NSO. Being able to better understand our users and work together really plays well in our aspirations to modernize the statistical system. A system that is user driven.

As I said earlier, we have started our journey in strengthening CGD in Kenya. We are very far from the end, but we want other NSOs to learn from us. Please feel free to reach out. somache@knbs.or.ke