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Governance

Mapping a school near Ukunda, Kwale County

Creating information is easy. Through mobile phones, GPS devices, computers (and countless other gadgets) we are all leaving our digital footprints on the world (and the World Wide Web). Through the open data movement, we can begin to access more and more information on the health and wellbeing of the societies in which we live. We can create a myriad of information and display it using open source software such as Ushahidi, OpenStreetMap, WordPress, and countless other online platforms. But what is the value of this digital information? And what impact can it have on the world?

Youth Empowerment Through Arts and Media (YETAM) is project of Plan International which aims to create information that encourage positive transformation in communities. The project recognizes young people as important change agents who, despite their energy and ability to learn, are often marginalized and denied opportunities.  Within the YETAM project, Plan Kenya works with young people in Kwale County (on the Coast of Kenya) to inspire constructive action through arts and media – two important channels for engaging and motivating young people.

Information in Kwale County

Kwale County is considered by Plan International to be a “hardship” area. Despite the presence of 5-star resorts, a private airport and high-end tourist destinations on Diani beach, the local communities in Kwale County lack access to basic services such as schools, health facilities and economic opportunities. Young people in the area are taking initiative and investigating the uneven distribution of resources and the inequities apparent within the public and private systems in Kwale County.

As one component of their work in Kwale, Plan Kenya is working with the three youth-led organizations to create space for young people to participate in their communities in a meaningful, productive way. There are different types of participation in local governance – often times government or other agencies invites youth to participate (“invited space”) as “youth representatives” but they are simply acting to fill a required place and are not considered  within the wider governance and community structures. Youth representation can also be misleading as the KYGC reports that “youth representatives” aren’t necessarily youth themselves – government legislation simply stipulates that there must be someone representing the youth – but there is no regulation that states that person must be a youth themselves (they must only act on behalf of the youth). This leaves the system open to abuse (the same holds true for “women’s representative” – you can find a man acting on behalf of women in the position of women’s representative).  Plan Kenya and the young people we met are instead working to “create space” (as opposed to “a place”) for young people in community activism in Kwale County.

The 5 weeks we spent in Kwale was the beginning of a process to support this on-going work in the broad area of “accountability” – this encompasses child rights, social accountability and eco-tourism. The process that began during the 5 weeks was the integration of digital mapping and social media to amplify voices of young people working on pressing concerns in the region.

To create the relevant stakeholders and solicit valuable feedback during the process of the YETAM work on digital mapping and new media, the last 3 days in Kwale were spent reviewing the work with the teams. On Thursday November 10th, we invited advisors from Plan Kwale, Plan Kenya Country Office, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and officers from the Constituency Development Fund to participate in a half-day of presentations and feedback on the work the young people had undertaken.

By far the work that generated the most debate in the room was the governance tracking by the KYGC. The team presented the Nuru ya Kwale blog – the blog showcased 28 of the 100 + projects they mapped during the field work. They classified the 28 projects according to various indicators – and for example documented that 23 of the projects had been completed, 1 was “in bad progress”, 2 were “in good progress” and 1 “stalled.” The CDF officers (the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer of the Matuga CDF committee in Kwale County) were concerned with the findings and questioned the methodology and outcome of the work.  They scrutinized some of the reports on the Nuru ya Kwale site and questioned for example, why Mkongani Secondary School was reported as a “bad” quality project. The officials wanted to know the methodology and indicators the team had used to reach their conclusions because according to the representatives of the CDF committee, the auditors gave the Mkongani Secondary School project a clean bill of health.

One important message from the feedback on their work was the need to clearly communicate the methodology used to undertake the documentation of projects (i.e. what are the indicators of a project in “bad” progress? how many people did you interview? Whose views did they represent?). There is significant value in presenting balanced feedback that challenges the internal government (or NGO) audits – for example the data on Kenya Open Data documents that 100% of CDF money has been spent on the Jorori Water Project mentioned above, but a field visit, documented through photos and interviews with community members reveals that the project is stalled and left in disrepair. This is an important finding – the youth have now presented this to the relevant CDF committee. The committee members were responsive to the feedback and, despite turning the youth away from their offices the previous month, invited them to the CDF to get the relevant files to supplement some of the unknown or missing information (i.e. information that people on the ground at the project did not have access to, such as for example, who was the contractor on a specific project, and what was the project period).

Kwale youth with staff from Plan Kenya, officers from the CDFC and the local Youth Officer

Samuel Musyoki, Strategic Director of Plan Kenya who joined the presentations and reflections on November 10th and 11th, reported that:

“The good thing about this engagement is that it opened doors for the youth to get additional data which they needed to fill gaps in their entries. Interestingly, they had experienced challenges getting such data from the CDF. I sought to know form the CDFC and the County Youth Officer if they saw value in the data the youth were collecting and how they could use it.

The County Youth Officer was the most excited and has invited the youth to submit a business proposal to map Youth Groups in the entire county. The mapping would include capturing groups that have received the Youth Enterprise Fund; their location; How much they have received; enterprises they are engaged in; how much they have repaid; groups that have not paid back; etc. He said it will be an important tool to ensure accountability through naming and shaming defaulters.

The 5 weeks have been of great value — talking to quite a number of the youth I could tell — they really appreciate the skill sets they have received-GIS mapping; blogging; video making and using the data to engage in evidence based advocacy. As I leave this morning they are developing action plans to move the work forward. I sought assurance from them that this will not end after the workshop. They had very clear vision and drive where they want to go and how they will work towards ensuring sustained engagement beyond the workshop.”

The impact of digital mapping and new media on social accountability is still an open question. Whether the social accountability work would have provoked similar feedback from duty bearers if presented in an offline platform (for example in a power point presentation) instead of as a dynamic-online platform is unknown.  The Matuga CDF officers were however rather alarmed that the data were already online and exposed their work in an unfavourable light (in fairness, there were some well-executed projects as well). There is a definite need to question the use of new technology in governance work, and develop innovative methods for teasing out impact of open, online information channels in decision-making processes and how this is or isn’t amplifying existing accountability work.  There is definite potential in the work the young people are undertaking and the government officers consulted, from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and local CDF Committee (CDFC) stated that they were “impressed by the work of the youth”.

Within the community development systems and particularly the structure of devolved funding, there is a gap in terms of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) that the CDF committee to date has not been able to play effectively. As Samuel Musyoki stated the youth “could watch to ensure that public resources are well utilized to benefit the communities.” The Youth Officer even invited the youth to submit proposals for assistance in buying GPS gadgets and computers to strengthen this work.

Continuing the on and offline integration

As discussed, the work in Kwale on various issues is dynamic and evolving. The 5 weeks we spent with the teams was meant to provide initial trainings and support and to catalyse action that would be continued by the youth in the area, with support from Plan Kenya. Not only did we provide training to the young people, but Plan Kwale staff were also involved in the process and started documenting their work through the tools and techniques introduced by our team. With these skills, the Plan Kwale staff will support the on-going field mapping and new media work. We are also available to provide remote assistance with questions about strategies and technical challenges.

Some of the future activities include:

  • Holding a “leaders forum” during which the youth interact with a wider cross-section of stakeholders and share their work.
  • Continuing work on their various website – updating the sites with results from social auditing work to be carried out throughout the last weeks of November, as well as digitizing previous information collected during historical social auditing.
  • Validate the data by revisiting some project sites and documenting projects that haven’t been done yet, gathering stories from some of the Project Management Committees, taking more photos, and potentially conducting surveys within the communities to get more representative views on project evaluations.
  • Each group also needs to develop a more structured advocacy strategy to direct their activities in these areas.
  • All teams expressed interest in developing proposals to submit to the Ministry of Youth Affairs, through the Youth Enterprise Fund and CDF Committee, based on the suggestion of potential funding for this process. Plan Kwale staff, as well as some of the Country Office advisers offered to support the youth in developing these proposals.
  • Most importantly, the teams want to consult the wider community in their respective areas to demonstrate the relevance of YETAM, including the skills they have gained, to the community stakeholders (beyond the relevant government authorities

The potential of new technologies, including digital mapping promote accountability is only as powerful as the offline systems into which it is integrated. Without offline engagement, existing community systems of trust and recognition will be threatened and thus undermine any online work. The youth must remain grounded within their existing work and use new technology to amplify their voices, build their network, share their stories and lessons and learn from and engage with others.

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Throughout October and November 2011, Plan Kwale worked through Map Kibera Trust with Primoz Kovacic and I, along with 4 young people from Kibera (Zack Wambua and Maureen Omino) and Mathare (Jeff Mohammed and Javin Ochieng), to conduct digital mapping exercises to support ongoing youth-led development processes in Kwale county. One of the important lessons learned through the Trust’s work in Kibera and Mathare is that the stories behind the mapping work are important for understanding the processes that contribute to a situation as represented on a map. To tell these stories and to complement the data collection and mapping work done by the youth in Kwale, the Map Kibera Trust team worked with the Kwale youth to set up platforms to share this information nationally and internationally. Sharing the important work being done in Kwale will hopefully bring greater visibility to the issues which may in the longer term lead to greater impact.

Sharing stories of local governance

To support their work on social accountability, the Kwale Youth and Governance Consortium mapped over 100 publicly and privately funded community-based projects. The projects were supported by the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), Local Area Development Fund (LATF), NGOs and private donors. As one channel of sharing this information, the Consortium set up a blog called Nuru ya Kwale (Light of Kwale). According to KYGC the blog “features and addresses issues concerning promotion of demystified participatory community involvement in the governance processes towards sustainable development. We therefore expect interactivity on issues accruing around social accountability.” This involves sharing evidence about various projects and stories from the community.

One example is the documentation of the Jorori Water project in Kwale; through the mapping work, the Governance team collected details of the constituency development fund (CDF) project. The funding allocated to upgrade the water supply for the community was 6,182,960 ksh (approximately 73,000.00 USD). From their research the KYGC identified that the Kenya Open Data site reported that the full funding amount has been spent. A field visit to the site however revealed that project was incomplete and the community is still without a stable water supply, despite the fact that the funding has been “spent.”

Jorori Water Project, built using approximately 6.2 million shillings (73, 000.00 USD)

Read more about the questions the team raised in terms of the governance of CDF projects, including the detailed the project implementation process and some reflections on why the project stalled. This is information on community experiences (tacit information) that is well-known in a localized context but has not been documented and shared widely. New media tools, a blog in this case, provide free (if you have access to a computer and the internet) platforms for sharing this information with national and international audiences.

 

Addressing violence against children and child protection

Another blog was set up by the Kwale Young Journalists. The Young Journalists, registered in 2009, have been working with Plan Kwale on various projects, including Violence against Children campaigns. The group has been working to set up a community radio station in Kwale to report on children’s issues. Thus far, their application for a community radio frequency has encountered several challenges – new media provides an interim solution and will allow the team to share their stories and network with partners on a national and internal stage.

The Kwale Young Journalists worked with Jeff Mohammed, a young award-winning filmmaker from Mathare Valley. The YETAM project not only equips young people with skills, but through peer-learn establishes connections between young people working on community issues throughout Kenya. The programme also provides young people with life skills through experiential learning – Jeff reflects on his experience in Kwale and says:

“My knowledge didn’t come from books and lecturers it came from interest, determination and persistence to know about filmmaking and this is what I was seeing in these Kwale youths. They numbered 12 and they were me. They are all in their twenties and all looking very energetic, they had the same spirit as mine and it was like looking at a mirror. I had to do the best I could to make sure that they grasp whatever I taught.”

Jeff and the Kwale Young Journalists shooting a scene from “The Enemy Within”

Jeff worked with the Young Journalists on a short film called “the Enemy Within.” The film, shot with flip-cameras, tells the story of 12-year-old girl who is sold into indentured labour by her parents to earn money for her family. During the time she spends working, the young girl “falls prey of her employer (Mr.Mtie) who impregnates her when she is only 12 years old.” Jeff reflects that “early pregnancies are a norm in the rural Kwale area and what the young filmmakers wanted to do is to raise awareness to the people that its morally unacceptable to impregnate a very young girl, in Enemy Within the case didn’t go as far because the village chairman was bribed into silence and didn’t report the matter to higher authorities.” This is a common scenario in Kwale, and the young journalists plan to use the film in public screenings and debates as part of their advocacy work in the coming months.

Jeff and the Kwale Young Journalists shot the film in four days – they travelled to Penzamwenye, Kikoneni and also to Shimba Hills national park to shoot 7 scenes for the movie. Read more about Jeff’s reflections on working with the Kwale Young Journalists on his blog.

Sharing ecotourism resources

The Dzilaz ecotourism team – a group that encourages eco-cultural tourism in Samburu region of Kwale count – also integrated social media into their work. During the last week (November 8th-12th) the group set up a blog to market the community resources, services and products. They also plan to document eco-culture sites and the impact that eco-tourism can have on the community. As of November 10th, 2011 the Dzilaz team had already directed potential clients to their website and thus secured a booking through the information they had posted.

The importance of telling the stories behind the maps

One important component to mapping work is to tell the stories behind the map. The three groups in Kwale are working to build platforms to amplify their grassroots level work in order to share stories and lessons learned; the information documented on the various platforms will hopefully develop over time and contribute to a greater understanding of the processes at a local level – and where youth as young leaders can intervene to begin to change the dynamics of community development.

Cross posted on Linda Raftree’s blog Wait…What? and the Map Kibera bog.

Harnessing GIS mapping and social media to improve lives

Mapping the sanitation in situation in Mathare has been a process of continual learning. When we began the Map Mathare pilot project in December 2010, we employed a dynamic methodology to engage young people and the community issues in the approximately 20 villages in Mathare. My colleague Primoz and I worked closely with the Plan Kenya team to design a training programme and over the past 8 months, have learned a great deal about working with youth and communities to “make the invisible visible” that is – to document tacit knowledge and turn the experience of communities and young people into information that translates across social and geographic boundaries.

Empowering young people

youth map toilets in Mathare

Young people as “digital natives” – are growing up in an age where mobile phones are viewed as a necessity – even a right – in everyday life. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, M-pesa, SMS, Email – all products and services familiar to young people – even the disadvantaged youth in urban areas engage with these products at some level. Harnessing GIS mapping and social media to improve access to sanitation and hygiene may very well be led by these young people.

Yes, the word empowerment is over-used – and has become almost meaningless. Watching the transformation (that can even occur in one day) of a person’s perception of their environment  through the simple act of collecting GPS data about their village – is a very powerful experience and can only be described as empowering.

The team of mappers, videographers and bloggers– now about 15 in number – who have stuck with us since December of last year, can really tell you what empowerment means to them. Not only have they put themselves and their community on the map – a process that evokes a great sense of pride and responsibility. Some of the young people who did not know how to read a map before they engaged with Primoz, Simon, myself and the Kibera mappers. Philip Amukoya, one of the Mathare mappers told me on Tuesday that his soccer coach, who knows his interested in community forums, told him about “this thing called Map Mathare” back in December of last year. Philip decided to come and check it out despite not really know what “Map Mathare” could mean. He is now one of the star mappers and speaks with authority on the importance of “Global Positioning Systems,” Geographic Information Systems and community information.

Putting yourself on the map is the first step toward demanding recognition and everything that comes along with it – including basic human rights (the right to a clean living environment, the right to health) and by extension – the right to access services provided to the rest of Nairobi. Through our programme, young people are given the chance to represent their community through the medium of a map. Standard GIS symbols break down the barriers that separate youth and elders – rich and poor – and allow these young people to express themselves on a level playing field. Looking at the maps,  who would know they were generated by youth from the informal settlements?

Map of toilets, water points and open defecation areas in Mathare

Now that we have started that process of empowerment, and triggered this amazing group of young people to act as “community explorers” – documenting their lives and their community – the larger question is – how can we make an impact? How do we ensure that the process of community engagement, mapping and digital storytelling inform not only the youth about issues in their villages, but also reach duty bearers and decision makers who can then work with the community to take action based on the data collected?

Data in decision making

On Tuesday September 20th, we held a stakeholders forum at Plan Kenya, organized and hosted jointly by the Map Mathare team and Plan Kenya. We invited representatives from the private sector, Government and NGOs – as well as community representatives – to discuss the findings and products of the Map Mathare pilot. More importantly we asked attendees to make commitments to engage with the mappers, videographers and bloggers to “turn information into action.”

The forum was attended by City Council of Nairobi, Athi Water Services Board, MSF, KWAHO, Plan Kenya, Internews, Dignitas Project and several private sector companies.

We presented the trends that drive our work – the “urbanization of poverty”, the growing urban population, the untapped potential of young people, the importance of informal settlements to the economy of Nairobi and the “invisibility” of these areas that contributes to the ability of governments to “ignore” the needs of people living in the informal, marginal areas of the city.

Simon Kokoyo presented some perspectives from Mathare and discussed the research fatigue in Nairobi’s informal areas. He spoke candidly about how his mother has lived in Mathare since 1958 and that NGOs and researchers are constantly doing research and asking questions of Mathare residents. He said “my mother is an expert in filling questionnaires. She is part of a women’s group. And when researchers come to ask questions on water and sanitation they point them to Momma Njeri. Momma Njeri is the one who is an expert in water and sanitation questionnaires.”

But what happens to all this data – how can these “local experts” be the involved in shaping their own narrative – to take on the role of researchers instead of the subjects. That’s why Simon got involved with Map Mathare. He sees the potential in the community members as “experts.”

There was genuine excitement in the room when we spoke about the findings of the community (and youth) experts. Mathare Valley is an area of about 3 square kilometers. The pilot area of 4 villages (Thayu, Mabatini, Mashimoni and Village 10) is covered with 8.5 kms of open drainage. Two percent of the same area is covered with open defecation. These are statistics generated by the people of Mathare Valley.

The statistics, visualizations, stories and presentations inspired the representatives to make commitments to working with the Map Mathare team to turn this information into action. Realizing that not everyone is in a decision-making role, some were personal commitments to take the information presented at the meeting forward to the relevant decision-makers in various offices.

The representatives of City Council of Nairobi were not in a place to make commitments on behalf of the City Council but personally committed to continue to engaging with the community to change or transform social behaviour and to better living and health conditions in their work. The representatives will pass on the information to City Council decision makers so that they are aware of the existence of GIS maps developed by the community.

Athi Water Services Board representatives commit to creating awareness in the community to make better use of the existing WATSAN facilities. They also have some data regarding water services in Mathare and would like to work with Map Mathare to harmonize the information and identify gaps.

The private sector representatives were interested in continuing to innovate around sanitation solutions. They would like to work with the youth from Map Mathare and use the data to make a business case for sanitation service provision. This would include exploring the size of the population, their ability and willingness to pay, what toilet models are most successful and how to take it to scale.

Many of the stakeholders raised the issue of the linkages between sanitation and security – particularly for women. Medicinés Sans Frontier (MSF) work in Mathare on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). The advocacy officer who joined the meeting mentioned the importance of sanitation and the need for mapping security issues – these maps could then be used to complement MSF’s advocacy work to improve lighting and security, particularly around toilets. The private sector representatives were interested in participating in lobbying efforts for improved lighting and security.

The Map Mathare youth have also committed to continuing the mapping work and to represent their community well. They are excited, empowered and will continue mapping and telling their stories!

Kenya’s Vision 2030 strategy was launched in launched in June 2008. The overarching vision for the plan is “a globally competitive and prosperous nation with high quality of life by 2030.” The plan is based on three pillars:

  1. Economic: Maintain and sustain economic growth of 10% per annum for most of the next 20 years
  2. Social:  A just and cohesive society enjoying equitable social dev in a clean a secure environment
  3. Political: An issue based, people-centered and accountable democratic political system

The strategy is enabled by crosscutting activities in infrastructure development, science technology & innovation, public sector reform and macroeconomic stability. The Vision 2030 office is currently working to support approximately 100 projects across all pillars and within the “enabler” areas across the country.

One example is the reform of political system through the development of e-government systems to improve service delivery and communication with the general public. Another example in is the road development currently taking place throughout Nairobi (any Nairobian can tell you the current snarly traffic jams are a constant headache).

Vision 2030 is expected to be rolled out through government programmes with a significant contribution from the private sector. Companies and organizations are encouraged to contribute to the Vision. Private companies and public-private partnerships are expected to be responsible for rolling out 70% of project. Tatu City is one such private sector project.

Geospatial information for decision making towards Vision 2030

As presented today in the Africa Geospatial Forum, the team behind Vision 2030, lead by Director General Muga Kibati, requires geospatial information to assist in decision making. One example of this is the plans to establish 4-5 zoonotic “disease free zones” to improve the situation for livestock and animal husbandry. Identifying and monitoring these areas for improved planning and decision making will be assisted by GIS. Another area where geographic information systems (GIS) will be crucial is in land registry. EM Murage, Directory of Surveys at the Ministry of Lands, spoke of the development of a national digital cadastre database and land registry database.

According to the Murage, Kenya has “continued to use outdated and inconsistent geodetic reference systems that are not properly connected. The situation makes building up Geographic Information Systems (GIS) extremely complicated.” One challenge the Ministry experiences is the demand to conform with modern geospatial technologies, inadequate software for updating topographical maps and survey activities and inadequate human capacity in new technology (his slides showed screenshots of ArcView 3.2!! – they most recent version is 10).

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) is another key government agency that supplies geospatial information that is, and will contribute to Vision 2030. KNBS is the principal agency of the government for collecting, analyzing and disseminating statistical data in Kenya. According to Emma Akelo Odhiambo, GIS Manager at KNBS, her team will use geographic information to assist in timely decision making for several sectors. Of particular interest is the health and water and sanitation sectors.

The GIS team will contribute to the goal “to provide equitable affordable health care at the highest standard of cities” and to make “water and sanitation available and accessible to all.” KNBS will identify location of health facilities and provide data about the distribution of future health facilities and medical personnel to staff based on the needs identified.

Type of health information KNBS will collect:

  1. Location of health facilities
  2. Distribution of medical personnel
  3. Location of vulnerable populations
  4. Indicating longitudinal trends
  5. Mapping at risk population
  6. Determining geographic distribution and variation of diseases (incidence and prevalence)

Water and sanitation information:

  1. Inventory of utilities
  2. Distribution of water points
  3. Accessibility to water points
  4. Sources of water
  5. Safety of water point

Government agencies, organizations, institutions, companies and individuals contributing to Vision 2030 have a challenging task ahead of them. Many of the presentation in the session on Vision 2030 at the Africa Geospatial Forum discussed the potential of geospatial information, rather than concrete examples of how various agencies are using information to inform projects. With only 18.5 years left to 2030, the challenges faced by various agencies in terms of harnessing GIS tools for decision support must be tackled quickly in order to move ahead not only with planning but also with monitoring the implementation of Vision 2030’s projects.