• Blog
  • 27 November 2017

Harnessing the power of data to tackle inequality and reduce poverty in Kenya

DI launches the Spotlight on Kenya to help increase the uptake of available official data in meeting and monitoring the country’s development commitments.

Written by Henry Odhiambo

Engagement & Partnerships Manager

In Kenya, both county as well as national governments are key in fighting inequality and poverty reduction, but county governments particularly are experiencing huge gaps in terms of data collection, the open availability of data and analysis for evidenced-based decision-making. Additionally, some non-official actors such as NGOs face difficulties in accessing, analysing and using data to support national and county governments in development work.

The critical role of data in fighting poverty and inequality featured prominently in this month’s Kenya Equity Week, organised under the auspices of International Budget Partnership Kenya with participation and support from other organisations, including Development Initiatives (DI). There were calls for integration and interoperability of data between the producers; standardisation of data collection methodology to provide quality assurance; and making available more data in open formats for easy accessibility.

Presentations from five counties (Elgeyo Marakwet, Samburu, Turkana, Busia and Makueni) revealed that some wards within the same counties are clearly being left behind in development, particularly with regard to good roads, education and access to clean water and health facilities. Quality data is essential in addressing this situation, as well as for informing ongoing development plans, such as the 2018–2022 County Integrated Development Plans.

During Equity Week, DI launched the Spotlight on Kenya: an online data visualisation platform that seeks to help increase the uptake of available official data in meeting and monitoring the country’s development commitments. Part of DI’s Development Data Hub, the Spotlight brings together in one place the key available data from all 47 counties on socioeconomic indicators, financial resources and poverty indicators from such sources as the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the Ministry of Education, the Demographic and Health Surveys and county governments. Spotlight data can support decision-makers and accountability actors in their work to reduce poverty and improve sustainable development by enabling better analytical work on national development needs and the resources available to address them.

In addition to initiatives like the Spotlight, stakeholders present at Kenya Equity Week also called for robust engagement both in government and beyond to increase use of data both for policy making and for accountability purposes. The production, sharing and use of quality data is widely acknowledged as a key prerequisite to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to ensure no one is being left behind. Sustained capacity building for citizens, especially at the grass-roots level, is essential to encourage data use for driving improvements in service delivery from government and the private sector.

Increased collaboration between the government, civil society and private sector was also highlighted as a priority at the event, echoing growing global awareness on the need for an inclusive approach to producing, sharing and using data. This should include mapping of stakeholders from various sectors, identifying their specific data needs and exploring how to support them. Some stakeholders from Kenya’s health and education sectors in particular are already interested in finding out how data on the Spotlight can help with in-depth analysis of their sector.

So what are the next steps? Progress has been made by national and county governments in the field of data, but challenges remain. A lack of, or difficulty in accessing timely, reliable, disaggregated and open data is still a major concern. For instance, the latest publicly available poverty data from KNBS was collected in 2005, more than a decade ago, and it may no longer be relevant for solving current development challenges. Data producers and funders should invest in regular collection, including the use of innovative approaches for gathering community-level data and sharing of data as a demand-driven priority. Devolution presents a key opportunity for Kenya to address poverty and inequality by improving targeting resources at subnational level. Data-collection systems and analytical capacity in virtually all of the 47 counties require strengthening, and bridging the data gap between the data community and the county governments will require active collaboration.

Supporting the increased use of data and information to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development in Kenya is critical. We at DI are keen to engage and discuss with all stakeholders working on the data agenda how such approaches as the Spotlight can support improved development outcomes through informed decision-making based on the best available evidence.

For DI, the next steps include continuing to incorporate updated information into the Spotlight as it becomes available from official sources; DI is also keen to receive comments and suggestions from Spotlight users on how to make the platform even more user friendly. In addition, we are prioritising supporting stakeholders both at national and county level, mainly through our analytical work, to promote evidenced-based policy interventions.