Ssanyu Rebecca at Making All Voices Count: “The call for a data revolution by the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel in the run up to Agenda 2030 stimulated debate and action in terms of innovative ways of generating and sharing data.
Since then, technological advances have supported increased access to data and information through initiatives such as open data platforms and SMS-based citizen reporting systems. The main driving force for these advances is for data to be timely and usable in decision-making. Among the several actors in the data field are the proponents of citizen-generated data (CGD) who assert its potential in the context of the sustainable development agenda.
Nevertheless, there is need for more evidence on the potential of CGD in influencing policy and service delivery, and contributing to the achievement of the sustainable development goals. Our study on Citizen-generated data in the information ecosystem: exploring links for sustainable development sought to obtain answers. Using case studies on the use of CGD in two different scenarios in Uganda and Kenya, Development Research and Training (DRT) and Development Initiatives (DI) collaborated to carry out this one-year study.
In Uganda, we focused on a process of providing unsolicited citizen feedback to duty- bearers and service providers in communities. This was based on the work of Community Resource Trackers, a group of volunteers supported by DRT in five post-conflict districts (Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Katakwi and Kotido) to identify and track community resources and provide feedback on their use. These included financial and in-kind resources, allocated through central and local government, NGOs and donors.
In Kenya, we focused on a formalised process of CGD involving the Ministry of Education and National Taxpayers Association. The School Report Card (SRC) is an effort to increase parental participation in schooling. SRC is a scorecard for parents to assess the performance of their school each year in ten areas relatingto the quality of education.
What were the findings?
The two processes provided insights into the changes CGD influences in the areas of accountability, resource allocation, service delivery and government response.
Both cases demonstrated the relevance of CGD in improving service delivery. They showed that the uptake of CGD and response by government depends significantly on the quality of relationships that CGD producers create with government, and whether the initiatives relate to existing policy priorities and interests of government.
The study revealed important effects on improving citizen behaviours. Community members who participated in CGD processes, understood their role as citizens and participated fully in development processes, with strong skills, knowledge and confidence.
The Kenya case study revealed that CGD can influence policy change if it is generated and used at large scale, and in direct linkage with a specific sector; but it also revealed that this is difficult to measure.