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This is a guest post from Jamie Lundine, who has been collaborating with Plan Kenya to support digital mapping and governance programming in Kwale and Mathare. The original was published on Jamie’s blog, titled Information with an Impact. See part 1 of this series here: Digital Mapping and Governance: the Stories behind the Maps.

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 encourages 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 Kwale Youth and Governance Coalition (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 this 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 were,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, our 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 which showcased 28 of the 100 + projects the youth had 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 for the youth based on 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 were 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 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 were 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 websites – 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.
  • Validating 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 to 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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Youth map toilets in Mathare. (From Map Kibera's Blog)

I first heard about Map Kibera quite awhile ago. Looking through old blog posts, I’m thinking it’s been about 2 years. Somehow, probably through blogs and Twitter, we connected and made plans to work together on the Youth Empowerment through Technology, Arts and Media (YETAM) project that I was coordinating and where we (Plan) had been wanting to use digital mapping but didn’t have a clear understanding of how to do it technically.

Around the same time, Plan’s program team in Kenya was connecting with Map Kibera through the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), where Robert Chambers (the guru/godfather/grandfather of participatory rural development approaches) and co. were also thinking about how digital mapping fits into participatory development. Sammy Musyoki, Plan Kenya’s program support manager who is also affiliated with IDS, was already engaged in some work around the use of mobiles in community led total sanitation (CLTS) work. In November 2010, Map Kibera became part of a research project, where Sammy and Evangelia Berdou (also from IDS) began looking at “the challenges faced when applying the methodologies of participatory technologies to participatory development and aid.”

Importantly, the research is not ‘extractive,’ research, eg, the researchers are not coming into Kibera to pull information out and leave, publishing their work for academic circles and never bringing the insights back to the community for discussion and interpretation.

As Map Kibera Trust co-founder Mikel Maron wrote, “With IDS, all of the interviews and meetings were facilitated by Sammy, leading up to a gathering of everyone to reflect on the results. This was incredibly valuable for everyone to share their perspectives and understand others. We thought of it as Group Therapy.” (Note: the posts written during the research are collected here – more good reading.)

He continues, “Additionally, we organized an amazing inquiry led learning session with Aptivate, which contributes to creating a guide-book for future trainings.” (Note: I was following the Twitter stream during the sessions that Aptivate conducted, and I highly suggest checking this organization out.)

While the research was taking off, Plan Kenya and Map Kibera also started working together on both the YETAM project as well as on a Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) program in Mathare.

The learning from the IDS research, together with Plan and Aptivate’s input around facilitating participatory development approaches meant that the Mathare project started off differently than the Kibera project did. The approach was a bit slower, and started by really engaging the community. As Jamie Lundine (current director of Map Kibera Trust) writes in her post Whose Map, “Map Kibera did not begin as a participatory development project. The initial project was an attempt to introduce open source technology – namely, OpenStreetMap – into a community that had previously not had a publicly accessible map (for all intents and purposes it was “unmapped”). Initial mapping of Kibera was done quickly (in 3 weeks) and local leaders, including administration were consulted but not necessarily engaged in the process.” The quick growth of the project was partly fueled by interest and support from the international community due to the innovative nature of the project, rather than by demand from the community for a rapid implementation.

She continues in the post to describe the participatory process that was used in Mathare – eg., lots of meetings, discussions and participation and offline activity before any mapping even started. The approach in Mathare was to really engage the community and local organizations and structures from the outset, and to “lead from behind”. One of the neat results from this approach is the fantastic Mathare Valley Blog, set up and maintained by the youth, and a great place to go to hear about what’s happening in Mathere directly from residents.

From Jamie’s post New Media in Mathare:

“To provide the participants with some ideas about other options in terms of new media, some basic training on the use of the Ushahidi Voice of Mathare platform was provided to some of the Map Mathare project participants. The Voice of Kibera team conducted a number of hands-on trainings with 8-10 Mathare participants. The participants were interested in the platform and learning from the experience of the Voice of Kibera members, but did not take-up the software as we saw in Kibera. We therefore agreed to provide technical support for the blogging platform as a central online information focal point for the Map Mathare initiative. We were careful not to impose the original ideas of New Media in Mathare and have adhered to the original methodology agreed upon by the team with support from Plan Kenya and CCS. This was a community driven approach from which the technical and coordination team “leads from behind”. We are and continue to be flexible when it comes to programming in Mathare.”

Map Kibera has worked with a broader group of Plan Kenya staff also to build capacity around participatory mapping so that various on-line and off-line mapping tools could be considered in Plan Kenya’s future efforts, for example, these suggestions by the Plan Kenya staff: mapping and identifying the hot spots of child abuse, use of SMS for communication with hearing and speech impaired within the community, using reports and sharing the same information to various media channels, program monitoring, a governance tool for enhancing social accountability as well as tracking projects, involving children in participatory community mapping, using blogging as a tool for youth to document governance issues, and to document and share participatory activities that Plan already undertakes, such  as transect walks and participatory situational analyses.

Map of toilets, water points and open defecation areas in Mathare. (from Map Kibera's blog)

Today, almost 2 years after our “first contact”, Jamie wrote a motivating post that highlights how things can work when development, technology, academia, communities and local partners work together openly.

“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.”

Through these collaborations, everyone benefits and learns. Plan is learning how to support communities to use new technologies in community development work. Plan staff is also developing capacity to innovate in Plan’s work by becoming more familiar with different technology tools and ways of working. Through blogging and sharing and face-to-face meetings, this learning is making its way through the organization, touching on a variety of levels, sparking slow and steady changes in how a huge organization operates. The Map Kibera team is learning more about participatory methodologies in development, which carries into their work and how they talk about their work also. IDS is learning how the two mix, and offering an academic overview within theoretical frameworks and advancing the field of knowledge around participation technology and participatory development. The community benefits by being fully engaged in a process that has positive and lasting impact.

Jamie writes:

“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 did not know how to read a map before…. 

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?”

This is a good example of various disciplines and sectors working together with youth and community members to take an initiative forward in a very positive way.

It’s proof that coordination, cooperation and bridging across all these areas is not only possible, it is vital if efforts are to be of any real and sustained impact.

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This is a guest post by Jamie Lundine. Jamie is a health geographer who works with Map Kibera in Kenya. We first met about a year ago when Plan began thinking about using digital mapping as an element of the Youth Empowerment through Technology, Arts and Media (YETAM) project and we started discussing how we could work together. Since then it’s been exciting to see how Plan Kenya and Map Kibera are collaborating to bring together child-centered community development work and ICTs in programs such as YETAM, youth and governance work, and community led total sanitation (CLTS) programs. Globally Plan is committed to building its capacity to use ICTs where appropriate in its work and to support youth, communities and local governments to use ICTs where useful for their goals. Plan Kenya is one of the offices that is leading the way in ICT4D at Plan, and there is much that the rest of us can learn from their approach and experiences.

Jamie’s original post appears on her blog Health Geography as ‘Documenting a participatory digital mapping workshop with Plan Kenya‘ and on the Map Kibera blog. Michael Warui, Plan Kenya’s ICT director, sent me the workshop report and I was planning to write about it here, but Jamie’s already done all the work, so I’m re-posting.

Map Kibera Trust recently facilitated a 3 day training to introduce participatory digital mapping to target staff at Plan Kenya. The participants in the workshop included programme staff and ICT staff from the Kenya Country office and regional offices around the country. Participants came from Homabay, Kisumu, Kilifi, Kwale, Tharaka, Machachos, Bondo, the Kenya Country Office and the Urban Programme (Nairobi). Their backgrounds ranged from ICT support staff, to Child Rights & Gender Advisor, to M&E Coordinator, to programme staff in 4 of Plan’s 5 focus areas (Protection and Inclusion, Health, Education and Governance).

The training was planned at the beginning of the implementation of the new Kenya country strategic plan (CSP) 2011-2015 for Plan Kenya. Building on the success of Plan Kenya’s work in Kwale on universal birth registration and also from digital mapping work with POIMapper and Map Kibera Trust, the new CSP highlights the importance of ICT in the improved efficacy of Plan’s work. Plan Kenya has chosen to place an explicit focus on participatory ICT in its work. This is in line with Plan International’s focus and leadership in ICT4D globally.

In this context, the workshop aimed to:

  • Introduce participatory digital mapping theories, techniques and tools that Map Kibera Trust employs in its work
  • Provide hands on experience in GPS data collection and data editing using Open Street Map
  • Learn more about how Plan Kenya programmes use information and communicate
  • Brainstorm ideas about how to integrate ICT into programme work

We began with an introduction to Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) by exploring some questions to consider before introducing ICT into programme work. The questions were (and are) meant to stimulate discussion and encourage participants to think systematically about the integration of ICT into new and existing programmes. The questions identify the reasons why you would use ICT, assess what constraints and opportunities exist in the framework you are working in, and explore how people are communicating in order to design appropriate and sustainable systems to build upon existing channels of communication. The questions are modified from Linda Raftree’s post “7 or more questions to ask before adding ICTs,” so thanks to Linda for the inspiration!

  1. Why are you considering the use of ICT?

The Plan Kenya staff identified that using ICT, particularly mobile phones and the internet, has become a desired lifestyle choice that the majority of Kenyans around the country have embraced. This was an important point that the participants wished to build upon and capture in their use of ICT in various communities. The group generally agreed that ICTs are available and can be accessed by many Kenyans. The staff also mentioned that ICTs could improve communication and be used to easily mobilize communities (for example sending one SMS to many people to attend a meeting). ICTs are flexible and can improve accuracy and consistency in information, which can then be easily stored and shared. There was also mention of improved efficiency in programme work through the collection and processing of real-time information.

  1. What are the programme goals or programme framework you are working within?

Most of the participants identified the new country strategic plan for the organization as the overarching framework that Plan Kenya staff are working with. The country strategic plan identifies 5 areas of focus: Health, Livelihoods, Education, Protection & Inclusion and Governance.

  1. What are your specific information and communication needs?

The information needs of Plan Kenya staff members were largely related to programme work. The needs included collecting accurate data for baseline surveys for Monitoring and Evaluation and thus to assess programme impact. There were some suggestions of improving communication through digitizing information that can more easily be shared to large numbers of people. The group suggested that this could improve accountability to other staff members, donors and to beneficiaries in communities. ICT can also improve the ability of Plan Kenya staff to analyze information and make decisions.

  1. How are you already using information and communicating?

In order to integrate ICT into existing programmes within communities, it is important to know how staff members are already using information and communicating in their daily lives. The group came up with a long list of communication tools: email, internet, intranet, websites and social netoworks – namely Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace), applications (Skype, Yahoo Messenger), SMS and telephone calls, radio, and television. The group is using information during baseline data collection. Some are involved in a project that integrates SMS applications into the birth registration process in Kwale District.

  1. Who are the actors involved in the particular issue you are seeking to address with ICT?

 The Plan Kenya staff won’t be (and aren’t) using ICT in isolation. There are important stakeholders they work with on particular issues, programmes and projects. These include the general community – with a particular focus on youth and children. Important sub-sections of the community include teachers, school administration, Government of Kenya, civil society organizations, Plan Kenya partners (such as Childline Kenya, Community Cleaning Services), the media and private sector actors. Different groups of people use technology differently, and depending on the answer to question 1) and question 6 (below) the staff may need an ICT strategy that is diverse enough to reach the various stakeholders.

  1. How do people use ICT already?

This list of the ways in which Kenyans are already using ICT is a testament to the idea that the group tapped into when answering question 1. The use of ICT in Kenya, specifically mobile phone applications, has become a lifestyle choice. Kenyans use phones for mobile money transfer, SMS, calling, accessing the internet, paying their bills, paying for goods, calling toll-free lines (e.g. Childline call centre, police hot lines) and for data collection and dissemination. Kenyans also listen to the radio, use computers, blog, email, chat, shop online, bank online, join online discussions and news groups and use various forms of social media. They do this for work, but also for pleasure. These were the means identified by the group, however this is not an exhaustive list.

  1. How do people access technology already?

This was a sub-section of question 6 and the group answered: mobile phones (including GPS enabled and internet enabled phones), street phones, computer, internet connection in office and homes, internet modems, cyber cafés, radios, TVs, toll free lines, and resource centres.

  1. How will you close the feedback loop and manage expectations?

How do you make sure the information you are generating, no matter the medium or tool you are using, gets back to the community? How do you promote the use of technology without seemingly presenting a silver bullet solution (even if you don’t intend to do so)?

These questions were answered in several ways. One idea about both closing the feedback loop and managing expectation was to network  with other organizations and partners in the community to share information and raise awareness about the use of ICT and the opportunities and limitations of ICT4D projects.

Another option for closing the feedback loop was to both collect and disseminate information on popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

A third suggestion was to close the feedback loop and manage expectations through an informed resource person and/or resource centers and staff having sessions with the community.

Finally, there was the suggestion to start the integration of ICT in development work by outlining and communicating clear expectations and at the end have feedback sessions to monitor the whole process.

  1. What is your sustainability plan?

The final question, and likely the most difficult (we only had a one hour brainstorming session and did not expect participants to come up with final answers to this question but simply consider it as an important component to any project with an ICT component).

One idea was to equip community members, and particularly youth, with skills that will be applicable beyond the program (or project) timeline. The YETAM project (youth empowerment thorough arts and media) was designed in this way and the group agreed that this design was beneficial to the young people involved in the program.

Another suggestion was to involve the beneficiaries/community in the entire process of choosing/customizing appropriate ICT tools that suit their needs and for further development so that it is community owned process and will in theory continue beyond the project/program lifecycle. Other ideas included:

  •  Build partnership with Government and NGOs.
  • Integrate fund raising or income generating activities into the project.
  • Use affordable technology (free and open source)
  • Ensure follow-up mechanisms are built into the project

We discussed the use of mapping, open information and ICTs for development. We also used two of the three training days to focus on hands-on training and skills building. We facilitated training in handling the GPS devices, collecting data and using Java Open Street Map (JOSM) and Potlatch to record open spatial information into the OpenStreetMap databases. As we’ve found in the past, the hands on training is exciting and motivating. The theorietical discussions, combined with the practical field work inspired discussion and debate on ideas on how to integrate participatory digital mapping andICTs into programme work.

The following are ideas generated by the Plan Kenya staff:

  • Ushahidi could be useful for referral partners mapping and identifying the hot spots of child abuse
  • Use of SMS for communication with hearing and speech impaired within the community
  • Using reports and sharing the same information to various media channels. E.g. PPM, a in-house system that is used to track and monitor information and projects progress
  • In governance as a tool for enhancing social accountability, where ICT can be used to track projects
  • Digitization of data collection e.g. in sponsorship (especially photography), child abuse hotspots
  • Involving children in participatory community mapping by mapping schools using walking papers
  • Using blogging as a tool for youth to document governance issues in the new good governance project for the Urban Programme
  • In Kilifi the team is doing a 2 year study on Open Defecation Free villages and health outcomes. They could use mapping and spatial statistics to document findings.
  • Mapping and other ICT4D tools could be used to document and share participatory activities that Plan already undertakes, such  as transect walks and participatory situational analyses

The training ended with a note of caution – the team recognized the potential tension between the processes that are needed for ownership of a community map (and any other ICT4D project) and the haste of development partners to use the budget and report progress to donors. In this case, many projects (ICT4D, mapping and any other project) may “leave the community behind.”

It is thus important to ask the following questions and consider the answers carefully when designing projects:

  • For whom are we doing the mapping (or any project really)? And whose map is it?
  • Of what use is the (spatial) information, what will it compliment?

After another successful workshop with Plan Kenya, we look forward to building on the excitement and enthusiasm generated during the training! Let’s see some of the great ideas turned into reality!

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In the past couple years, social media combined with traditional media has allowed people all over the world to feel they are supporting and participating in very visible revolutions (think Iran, Tunisia, Egypt). There is also a slow and steady revolution happening as more and more communities around the world access the tools to tell their own stories in their own words from their own perspectives.

I came across the Mathare Valley blog this weekend. It’s beautiful, artful and powerful.

Prayer of a slum dweller from the Mathare Valley blog

According to the ‘about’ page, the authors of the blog:  Simon Kokoyo, Ivyonne Tiany and Jeff Mohamed, grew up in or around Mathare. They are now involved in community programs there, including the Map Mathare Initiative.

Jamie Lundine, who works at MapKibera and who’s supporting some community mapping in Mathare, wrote an excellent post about integrating participatory community development work and digital mapping in Mathare, showing how development and tech folks can combine their expertise and work together with communities to strengthen local development processes.

In my last post, I wrote about how communications (and ICTs) should be ‘built in, not bolted on‘ to development initiatives. The Mathare Initiative looks like a good example of that, with community members taking a strong lead.

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I spent a few days in Nairobi early last week with our education and our ICT staff from Ghana, Uganda, Senegal, Mozambique, Kenya, Egypt and a few other folks, including the brilliant Mika Valitalo from our Finnish office and people from regional and headquarters levels. We were looking at goals and challenges in our education programs and thinking about where ICTs might play a role.

The process was really interesting. Starting a few months back, each country shared their education context analysis onto a wiki. In a second round they narrowed down to a specific area in education, looked at the information and communication flow and gaps, and identified areas where there might be an ICT solution. They focused mostly on mobiles, but in many cases mobiles were supported by computers, servers and laptops as well as non-digital information and communication tools and also solar technologies. Each country team met by Skype with Mika and an external consultant to discuss the concepts and get ICT advice and support. Then they updated their concepts and got additional feedback. For the third round, they added rich pictures to show what the specific ICT solutions might look like. Everyone had an opportunity to give input into everyone else’s ideas via the wiki.

At the meeting in Nairobi, we spent a day sharing the concepts with each other for clarification and focused input. Colleagues shared the broader education context in their countries and specifically in the communities where they are working. Then they illustrated the specific education issues and the ICT solutions that they were suggesting and/or the places they felt ICTs could help. Some of the ICT solutions focused on a very specific technology or device. Others showed how different types of ICTs could be integrated at different points in the process. Others required development of a totally new ‘solution’.

Some of the areas where colleagues thought ICTs could support education included: teacher training for those working in remote communities, adult literacy (especially literacy retention post literacy training), improving exam scores, livening up and improving in-class curriculum, and transparency and accountability in education. We spent 2 days then working in different small groups on the concepts, cross-pollinating ideas and deciding which of the concepts were most relevant to all 6 countries (in order to make it more possible to scale them) and which were most feasible and do-able.

The ideas were all a good fit with our global education strategy (see page 9) which focuses on service delivery (in partnership with local governments and communities); organizing and empowering rights holders; and grassroots participatory advocacy to influence education policies, financing and practice. The strategy prioritizes actions around equal access to education, quality of education, and education governance (see page 10).

Accountability and transparency in education

One of the concepts that captured the most interest from the whole group was that of using ICTs to improve accountability and transparency in education. Education is one of the areas where “Quiet Corruption” is often found. ‘Quiet corruption, which can take the form of absenteeism among teachers or doctors, the distribution of fake drugs, or the sale of diluted fertilizers to poor farmers, is having a damaging effect on people in Africa, according to the African Development Indicators report released by the World Bank….’ (March 18, 2010 article)

It's time for class.... where is the teacher to be found?

Edison, Charles and Erik, our colleagues from Uganda, did a short skit illustrating the different points in the primary education system where corruption happens. Their points correlated well with this summary of quiet corruption in education from a July 5, 2010 article in the Independent:

‘Early this year, the Transparency International (TI) Africa Education Watch Programme report: Africa Education Watch: good governance lessons for primary education showed that the government’s perception that massive enrollment is a sign of success of the UPE [universal primary education] programme must be revised to address the problem of overcrowding in classrooms, studying under trees, poor financial management, illegal fees, and lack of school inspection. The report exposes irritating embezzlement of UPE funds and abuse of authority by head-teachers who charge illegal fees, make students offer labour on teachers’ projects, sexual harassment, and systematic teacher absenteeism. The report noted that 85% of schools surveyed had either deficient accounting systems or none at all. In most cases, financial records were either unavailable or incomplete. The survey found limited financial documentation at district education offices and at schools. Most people who handle school grants had no training in basic finance management.

Another survey titled, The Efficiency of Public Education in Uganda, conducted in 2007 by the Ministry of Education to determine efficiency in provision of education services found an average rate of teacher absenteeism of 27% in Uganda, compared to other countries like Zambia (17%), and Papa New Guinea (15%). The aggregate loss caused by this absenteeism constituted 19% which translates into Shs 53 billion out of the Shs276 billion of the Education ministry’s wage bill.

In a swift headcount at the beginning of this year, the Education ministry established that the number of pupils listed in primary school registers was 25% higher than those actually studying. Similarly, the report established that the number of students in lower secondary schools had been exaggerated by 12%. For instance at Amaji Primary School last year, the school register had 816 pupils. But when the headcount was conducted the school administration could not account for 302 pupils.

It is reported that many districts’ chief administrative officers have failed to show proper accountability for the UPE and USE funds.’

The Uganda team also explained that:

  • Parental interest in education is very low because since Universal Primary Education launched, parents feel it’s the government’s responsibility. Some youth we were working with in Kenya last year made a short film about poor performance in primary schools covering the same issue  (see below).
  • Teachers’ salaries are paid directly to their bank accounts, and there is no way to punish them if they don’t show up.
  • There are mechanisms to ensure that donor funds go from the national level to the district level and then on to the school, but no accountability mechanisms to ensure that they get from the school to the classroom and are translated into quality education for children.
  • District level government authority and accountability ends when they transfer funds to the schools; school directors can report to them that they have received funding and that everything is going fine when it’s really not.
  • Local school committees are often made up of people who are not neutral and who do not have the best interest of the children in mind. In some cases, school committee positions are used for personal gain and to launch individual political careers and political campaigns.
  • Lack of parental and community involvement in the education process and in school governance means that no one is demanding accountability from teachers and schools.
  • Sexual and physical violence in schools is very common and underreported. When it is reported, often nothing is done about it.
(Start playing the video, then click the small ‘cc’ button to turn on captions in English)

Colleagues from the other countries face the same challenges in their work and in their own children’s education.

Can ICTs play a role?

What is the solution then? Colleagues suggest that motivating parents and the community to get more involved in school governance and demanding transparency and accountability can begin to change the situation. This obviously requires a lot more than ICTs. So several different actions would be taken to engage and motivate parents and the community to take a bigger role in their children’s education. Then ICTs can be integrated into and support the process for sharing education information with parents, such as student absenteeism, grades, parent-school meetings, exam dates and scores, etc. Parents and students would also be able to report when teachers do not show up or suspected corruption. Students could also report abusive teachers, absent teachers, and other issues they are not happy with at the school. A neutral party would manage and hold the information that flows in and out to protect students from reprisal and to protect teachers from any abuse of the system in case fraudulent or incorrect information is reported. Commitment from those responsible for overseeing education to respond to the issues raised and take serious action is also needed, and this may be the biggest challenge overall. Plan can play a role there, leveraging existing relationships with local and national governments and Ministries.

The idea needs quite a bit of further work, a closer look at feasibility, and more research and input from local communities and parents. As mentioned, the ICTs are actually a small, but potentially very important, part of a much larger initiative to get parents and communities involved in school governance to demand transparent, accountable and quality education and budget spending.

Challenges in the process

Some of the challenges that we had to manage well during this initial piece of the longer process included:

  • We needed to ensure that we were starting with the context and the need for better information and communications, not starting with the technology and devices and building initiatives around them. Yet we also had to avoid getting lost in the overall context and missing the opportunity to pinpoint potential ICT solutions at specific places within the context. Role play and flip chart illustrations of the  ‘problem’ and the ‘solutions’ were very useful for getting more concrete (“So, Kofi is here in his community and he wants to …. So he uses xxx to do this, and then this happens and then….).
  • Though we wanted to specifically look at places that mobiles and other ICTs could support, it was important to list out all the factors that needed to be in place in order for the ICTs to work and to think clearly about the constraints we might face during implementation. One good question to help with that was, after seeing an idea or ICT solution presented, to ask “What needs to be in place in order for that to happen?” Then you start to remember critical things like community motivation, government interest to actually resolve a problem, electricity, someone to set up and manage a server, a strong enough network to download multimedia content, mobile versions of websites, educational content re-design for mobiles, teacher training on how to integrate ICTs in the classroom, limitations of SMS for doing something other than rote learning, higher versions of a mobile operating system, a smart phone, etc.
  • We had input from a potential corporate partner during the process. We learned that corporations are thinking several years ahead to what will be coming down the line; however non-profit are normally working within existing constraints and trying to find solutions that work here and now in the resource poor places where we work or ways to get around those constraints. Multi-level solutions seemed to be a good possibility; eg., ideas that can rely on SMS today, but have potential to expand as networks expand and data enabled mobiles become more available.
  • A corporation tends to think in terms of vendors, results, timelines, launch dates, price points, return on investment whereas a non-profit (at least ours) tends to think in terms of community members, organizations, process, participation, local context. Our facilitator even told us that a corporation normally does a presentation by starting with the solution, and then spending the rest of the presentation showing why that is the right solution. A non-profit usually starts a presentation by sharing all the context and background, and showing the process that led to eventually reaching the potential solution, including every step along the way, how ownership was achieved in the process, why different decisions were made and who participated in them. So keeping corporate vs non-profit cultures and languages in mind is also important when working on joint initiatives.
  • We need to remember to establish measurable indicators of success so that we can tell if this new type of intervention has a different/ better/ greater / lesser impact than carrying out a similar process without ICTs or with a different set of ICTs. This is something we will address once the full idea is developed. Impact measurement is very important to both corporate partners and development organizations.
  • This was the first time many were involved a process of this kind, so keeping the balance between technology and development goals was a constant challenge. We sometimes veered too far towards focusing on all the details of the context and then back to focusing too much on that piece of the context where a potential technology solution was seen. I think we were moving toward a pretty healthy mix of both. The process is nowhere near complete, and as we continue to work on the ideas and look at feasibility and actual implementation, we should find the sweet spot.
The work above was guided by Plan Finland’s recent publication ICT Enabled Development – Using ICT strategically to support Plan’s work.  On the whole, it was a great learning process for everyone involved, and we came up with some good ideas that we will flesh out in the coming months. Having the opportunity to patiently and carefully think through areas and ways that ICTs can support program goals around education and discussing the ideas at length with colleagues was a capacity strengthening exercise for all involved and will mean that we will be more prone in general to thinking about incorporating ICTs in our work going forward.

Resources

ICT-Enabled Development

Plan’s Education Strategy 2010-2013

African Development Indicators Report by the World Bank

Africa Education Watch: Good Governance Lessons for Primary Education by Transparency International

The Efficiency of Public Education in Uganda by the World Bank

Learn without Fear Report on School Violence by Plan. Summary and Full Report (also available in French and Spanish).

Painful lessons: the politics of preventing sexual violence and bullying at school by the Overseas Development Institute

Expel violence! A systematic review of interventions to prevent corporal punishment, sexual violence and bullying in schools by the International Observatory on Violence in Schools

School violence in OECD countries by Karen Moore, Nicola Jones and Emma Broadbent

Update: Owen Barder published an interesting post called Development 3.0 – is social accountability the answer, which refers to social accountability in education in Uganda and links to 2 other quite interesting papers: Fighting corruption to improve schooling: evidence from a newspaper campaign in Uganda; and a 2007 paper by the Center for Global Development challenging the findings of that paper: Putting the Power of Transparency in Context: Information’s Role in Reducing Corruption in Uganda’s Education Sector

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Salim (left) with Solomon in Kinango community.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Plan’s Kwale District office in Kenya has been a role model for Plan on how to integrate ICTs into community-led programming to help reach development goals and improve access to children’s rights.

I talked with Salim Mvurya, the Area Manager in Kwale, last week and asked him for advice for the tech community (0.15), corporations (1.19) and development organizations (1.57) who want to build in ICTs for moving towards development goals. He also comments on the importance of realizing that development is changing (4.43). You can watch the video below or at this link. If you’re not patient enough to watch a 6 min video (often I’m not!) or don’t have a strong connection, see the transcript below.

You can also view Part 1 of the video, where Salim gives some background on how Plan Kwale has been using ICTs in their programs since 2003 (1.11), shares ideas about the potential of new ICTs (3.42) and talks about some key lessons learned (5.03). Or you can read the Part 1 transcript here.

Transcript Part 2

ICTs and Development Part 2: advice for tech community, corporations and development organizations

My name is Salim Mvurya, I’m the Area Manager for Plan in the Kwale Development Area.

What advice can you give to outside tech people who want to develop something for a place like Kenya?

I think that to get an idea externally is a good thing, but that idea has to be blended with grassroots. It has to be contextualized, because there are very many good ideas which may not be appropriate at the community level. So I think my advice, for people who have ideas, who have never been to Kenya or Africa or in the field, is to leave the process to be home grown, so that the ideas that are coming from outside are building on existing issues, so that the ideas are also looking at what kind of skills and what can be done on the ground, and looking also at issues of sustainability. So it’s very important for somebody from outside the country to be sensitive to local conditions, local context, local skills and also looking at putting ideas that can be self-sustaining.

What is your advice for corporations who want to support the use of ICTs in development?

Corporate organizations who are interested in making a contribution to ICT for development, I think it is important that they foster and have partnerships with grassroots organizations that can really give them the issues because, OK, most corporations are very innovative, but working with grassroots NGOs and civil society that can give them the practical sense of those ideas, I think would be a good thing to do.

What is your advice for colleagues trying to successfully integrate ICTs into their programs?

One thing for organizations that are thinking of utilizing ICT is that you need local capacity. Like, if you have a field office, for example, Plan has development areas, in development areas, particularly for Plan, the ICT technical people should also have an opportunity to lead the ICT for development. What I have seen in the few years that I have been trying this is that it requires also the ICT function to be more available to communities. It requires the ICT function to also work around the program issues that the team is thinking, so it’s not just about looking at systems, looking at computers, but looking at how can all these ICT skills be able to help to develop programs. How can the ICT function be able to support innovations that are also going to enhance problem solutions at the community level. How can we use ICT to strengthen our interventions in the community?

And I must say from experience, that the ICT coordinator for Kwale has been more of a ‘program’ person, and I think that is why we are seeing all these gains.  I remember when we were designing the community-led birth registration one afternoon, we sat together and we were thinking, how can we put all these ideas together and include ICTs in it, so I think it’s about having an ICT function that is responsive to the program issues on the ground and not necessarily sitting somewhere and looking at softwares. You know, even designing a software that would be more responsive to what is happening on the ground, like looking at issues of child protection and seeing how can ICT help the response mechanism. Looking at issues of accountability and seeing how ICT can make a contribution to accountability processes in community.  So I think that is the kind of ICT that would be appropriate in the field, but also an ICT function that can learn. You know, learning from other people, but bringing the lessons closer home to see what can work, and what can’t work.

Any last advice for development organizations around integration of ICTs?

The message that I would want to give to stakeholders and development organizations is that a lot is happening in the world in terms of ICT.  Also recognizing that development is changing… ICT is providing opportunities for greater advocacy and accountability, and I think getting the interest for looking at all this and trying to say ‘what does this mean for development’ I think is very very critical. The youth constituency is emerging as very critical and they have interest in ICT. I know in Kenya youth have been trying different things, different groups, but I think ICT is providing an opportunity for them to strengthen accountability but also to be able to get skills that they can use as individuals that can also make a contribution in economic development.

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Salim Mvurya, Plan Kwale's District Area Manager

Plan’s Kwale District office in Kenya has been very successful in building innovative community-led programming that incorporates new ICTs.  I had the opportunity to interview Salim Mvurya, the Area Manager, last week, and was really struck by his insights on how to effectively incorporate ICTs into community-led processes to reach development goals and improve on child rights, child protection and governance.

In this video, Salim gives some background on how Plan Kwale has been using ICTs in their programs since 2003 (1:11). He shares ideas about the potential of new ICTs (3.42) and some key lessons learned since 2003 (5.03).

Watch the video to get the advice straight from Salim. Or if your internet connection is slow or you’re like me and you like to skim through an article rather sit still and watch a video, the transcript is below.

In a second video, Salim gives really astute advice to the tech community (0.15), corporations (1.19), and development organizations (1.57) on how to successfully integrate ICTs to enable good development processes. He also mentions the importance of moving with the times (4.43). Read the transcript here.

Transcript for Part 1:

ICTs and development Part 1: ICT tools for child rights, child protection and social accountability

My name is Salim Mvurya, I’m the Area Manager for Plan in the Kwale District. My core responsibility as an area manager is to provide leadersip to the Kwale team in both program issues and also operational issues within the organization. This week we have been here in a workshop where we’ve been focusing mostly on issues of ICT for development and particularly what we’ve been learning here is the issue of mapping. We’ve also learned Ushahidi. We’ve also learned from our colleagues in Kilifi on mGESA (a local application of mGEOS that Plan Kenya, Plan Finland, University of Nairobi and Pajat Mgmt are developing) and basically we have been looking at this workshop as providing opportunities for using ICTs for development, but more particularly for us in Kwale is the issue of child protection and youth governance.

How has Plan Kwale been using ICTs for issues of child rights, child protection and child participation?

ICT in Kwale has a bit of a long history and it’s because of the issues on child rights. Kwale has a number of issues. Child marriages, issues of violations of child rights through sexual exploitation, and child poverty. So the efforts to do media started in Kwale in 2003 when we rolled out our first video that was done by children at the time to profile some of the issues of child marriage. But more importantly in 2005, we began to think greatly how we can bring the voices of children to duty-bearers and at time we thought of having a children’s community radio.

Because of lack of experience, we were thinking maybe at the end of that year we could launch the radio station. But then it took longer than we envisioned because we needed to roll out a participatory process. Alongside the same time, we had ideas of community-led birth registration which was being done in one community based organization. But later we also thought about looking at how ICT can help us in moving that direction.

Then we also had this idea of inter-generational dialogue, where children and youth can sit with duty-bearers and discuss critical issues affecting them, so we began using youth and video there, children and video, and showing those videos in a community meeting where then people could discuss the issues.  Alongside the same time we were partnering with various media houses and also rolling out radio programs where people could listen and also foster some discussions on children.

So it’s been a long journey but I think what we are seeing is that we need now to consolidate the gains, the experiences and efforts so that we can have a more strategic approach to ICT for Development and this workshop basically provides us with an opportunity and a platform to think much more.

What potential do you see for some of the newer ICT tools for your work in Kwale?

I see great potential in some of the tools that have been learned here this week, more particularly to get information at the click of a button from the ground. We could use the tools to map out resources out in the community, to map zones where there are a lot of issues on child protection, areas where we have issues like low birth registration… There is great potential for the tools that we’ve learned here to assist us not only in planning for projects, but in issues of social accountability. For example if you map out the areas where we have projects for Constituency Development Fund you can easily see where we have projects that have been done well but where we also have projects where maybe communities will need to discuss much more with duty-bearers to be able to, you know, foster issues of social accountability.

What are your biggest challenges? What mistakes have you made?

One thing that we’ve been learning in the process… well, you know sometimes we have ideas that we think can work in the next week, like for example the children’s community radio when we were thinking about it we were thinking that it could take off in about 2 months. But what we learned is that there are processes to be involved. Communities have to be prepared well for sustainability. Children have to be trained, there needs to be capacity building. You have also to conform to government procedures and processes.

The same also with birth registration. We thought in 6 months we could send an SMS and get your birth notification, but what we have also learned is that it takes a process. It takes awhile. You have to get the government buy in.  You also have to work on software, where the government is having a critical input. Because, although it is a pilot, we also think that if it works well then it has to be replicated, so it has to conform with the thinking in government. Also, with the issues of youth and media, one thing that has to be very clear is that you have to get youth who are committed, so you start with a bigger group, and you end up with those who are passionate

So I think it’s very critical when somebody is thinking about ICT for Development that, one, you look at the context: is it relevant to that area? What kind of skills are needed? What kind of processes for sustainability? but also getting the passion. Getting people who are passionate to lead the process is also a very critical lesson.

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