Monthly Archives: July 2014

Why Joined-up data is vital in informed decision making

By John Nsubuga

Having right and timely data is widely believed to have positive influence on planning, resource allocations and good governance across the world including in developing countries like Uganda.

Information about growth, investments, population, living conditions, and natural resources among others is vital for relevant policy formulation and allows policymakers and citizens to understand how resources spent in their localities affect their community.

For this reason, data must be well processed, organized, structured or presented in the manner that makes it useful for poverty eradication.

However, although over years Uganda has made demonstrable progress in obtaining development-related data, a study that was conducted recently shows that districts are still faced with numerous challenges in generating and managing data.

A recent Data Interoperability study conducted by Development Research and Training (DRT) and Development Initiatives (DI) in Katakwi and Kitgum districts revealed that districts are still faced with lots of challenges in handling data.

Mr Bernard Sabiti, Data Interoperability lead researcher at DRT, explained that a lot of data exists but the right data still isn’t available.

He further said existing data is in complicated formats (papers, big books, PDFs), making it difficult to share and manage.

“The challenges range from staffing gaps, lack of sufficient expertise at different levels to generate, analyze and disseminate data to technological challenges,” Mr Sabiti said while presenting the emerging findings in Katakwi district recently.

He also attributed the absence of right data to changing of staffs in departments and poor handover processes.

For this and other reasons, Joined-up data, or data that “speaks to each other” is pivotal. Known as “interoperability” in technical jargon, it is about having the right data in the same place, at the right time, accessible to all who need it.

Several district offices who attended the dissemination meeting, concurred with the findings that such kind of data would be a welcome development, although they appeared to have less influence over some of the challenges they face.

“The biggest challenge is at the data collection stage. We have limited staff at parish and sub-county levels who collects data,” Mr Silver Ongom, Katakwi District Production Officer said.

The Data Interoperability project, however, aims at joining up the data that has been collected on Health, Agriculture and Education in the two districts of Kitgum and Katakwi.

The objective of the project is to create a pilot model of an ‘open resource toolkit’ by collating all available data on social spending in three specific sectors, within specific trial localities, to maximum granularity –while building interoperability with social impact data.  This innovative ‘data partnership’ project will provide evidence-based recommendations for international stakeholders who see interoperable data for poverty eradication as a global public good.

Meanwhile, as the country embraces the data revolution debate in the post-2015 development agenda, the government and development partners need to support efforts aiming at making data interoperable.  Available data must “speak to each other”.

John Nusbuga is a data intern at Development Research and Training

Women embracing the Access to Information agenda in post 2015 global framework.

By Beatrice Mugambe

On 23-25 June, a regional strategic meeting  on ‘Strengthening African Women’s Voices in the Post-2015 Processes’ took place at Sheraton Hotel, Kampala. It brought together representatives of women’s rights, faith and community-based, civil society organizations, media and government from over 14 African countries to deliberate on “the Africa We Want and Need”. The meeting was a space to lobby for inclusion of women’s rights, gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights as critical to achieve development in the post-2015 agenda.

The participants unanimously agreed to have a standalone goal on gender equality and Women’s Empowerment’ to address the binding constraints to realising women’s empowerment and gender equality. In addition, they called for support on a range of issues among them  ‘Access to, control over and ownership of resources and assets including land, energy, credit, information and technology’. Africa is one of the continents where maternal and child mortality rates are still unacceptably high by any standards. (In Uganda, MMR stands at 440 in 2013, having worsened from the 310in 2010 – UNICEF data).Anecdotal information shows that about 16 women die in labour in uganda every day. Uganda and many other sub-Saharan countries are therefore on track to NOT meet the MDG target on Maternal and Child Health and a few others). Teenage pregnancy, unsafe abortions, forced and underage marriages are increasing largely due to limited or no access to information on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. Young girls and adult women in most African rural areas cannot access and use information on SRH services to assert their right to get education and training, right to decide on the number of children to bear, right to choose appropriate SRH services and right to participate in various social, economic and governance processes in their communities. No wonder that many African countries are lagging behind on MDGs, particularly MDGs  4 and 5 on Maternal and Child Health.

In one of the meeting sessions, Development Research and Training (DRT) represented by Beatrice Mugambe shared a platform with Muchiri Mwangi of the Open Society of Nairobi, Kenya to speak about ‘ICTs, the Right to Information and Women’s Rights ’. Reflecting on DRT’s work on Open Data and Poverty issues, we called for the closure of the “gender digital divide” to increase women’s role in the Post 2015 development agenda (Presentation here). The session aimed at highlighting the important link between women’s access to information (as their right) and their increased ability to know and exert their various rights in development processes. Information, communication and Technologies (ICTs) play a critical role in bringing about efficiency and effectiveness of development processes. Alsoi importnat to note is the vibrant discussion that women engaged in on the topic.

The women noted the importance of making information useable (in terms of relevance of the information provided to peoples’ needs, language used, timeliness, formats, channels for communicating it); promoting community owned and managed ‘access to information’ processes/projects for sustainability, monitoring and documenting implementation of Access to Information laws; advocating for removal of barriers that perpetuate gender inequalities in access to information and ICTs and making access to information a cross-cutting issue in all post-2015 goals.

Two areas of concern were raised during the discussion: how access to information can work in dysfunctional states and the rising cost of ICTs. Whilst dysfunctional states are a barrier to women’s ability to access and use information, it presents the perfect space for them to stand out and transform governance processes of such dysfunctional states. Women’s organisations were encouraged to make this a deliberate strategic and programmatic agenda in the post-2015 development framework. In addition, the cost of ICTs was found to be prohibitive for women to access information on basic issues like prices of agricultural inputs and crops, availability sexual and reproductive health services in their communities, etc. For countries like Uganda, where Government has just reinstated taxes on ICTs (previously ICTs were exempted from taxes), it is likely that there will be slow growth in women’s access to and use of ICTs. Uganda’s women’s organisations have to ensure that these taxes are either waived off and/or reduced.

Beatrice Mugambe is the Executive Director of Development Research and Training

Latest on our open data work (July 5, 2014)

 

  • On June 5, we disseminated our findings on the “Role of Open Data in allocation of resources for Poverty Eradication in Uganda and Kenya” at Hotel Africana. We are sharing the same findings at the Open Knowledge festival in Berlin July 13-18.
  • We presented our ideas on open budgeting at the Open Data day held at The Hub Kampala
  • We continued to process hard copies of data from Kitgum and Katakwi Districts into excel
  • We are visiting Katakwi district between July 6-July 10 to share our open data experiences with key District stakeholders, collect more data and demonstrate to them better ways of collecting, managing and disseminating data.
  • Our website now has Work spaces where our partners can share their projects and publish their data and documents. Just sign up and follow the prompts
  • You can see a variety of our data sets on the website and add your own
  • We just open a twitter account

Upcoming

  • Meeting with the Parliamentary committee on Science and Technology to share with them our work on Open Data (date to be communicated after confirmation) and ask policy and institutional support for the Open Data movement in Uganda
  • Continued data collection and scrapping