Do Rural Folk Know About Open Data?

By June 13, 2013Uncategorized

I have spent the last couple of days in Wote, Makueni County with Sam Lee and Felipe Estefaan from the World Bank Institute in Washington DC. I’ve been here before a couple of times and it always gives me great pleasure to make new contacts and learn more about the people and their lives.

This trip was all about finding out how people who don’t spend their lives online get information about public expenditure. It was also about finding out whether people know about open data. Not necessarily the portal but the whole idea of it.

The main session earlier in the day.

The main session earlier in the day.

My local contacts were invaluable in helping organize a workshop where members of various community based organizations, the local administration (yes there was a chief present) and officers from the county government participated. We provided them with data from the open data portal as well as some from World Bank Finances and they went through it looking at projects they were familiar with. It was very illuminating despite the fact that the data we were looking at was more than 3 years old. Quite a few projects turned out to be ghost projects that, they were familiar with and weren’t certain about the amounts disbursed by the CDF for them. It got animated when they saw these projects marked as “Completed” in the dataset.

A group session in progress.

A group session in progress.

Every group worked through the printouts of the data and, in pairs, identified one project that they would like to highlight through a radio advertisement and a poster. Then, still in pairs, they worked through the afternoon creating the posters, the radio script and recording it with the help of Felipe who had brought along equipment for this.

Participants working in pairs on their poster idea.

Participants working in pairs on their poster idea.

Tomorrow we will visit the two markets in town and the County Headquarters to test the outputs from the workshop on regular citizens. The plan is to see how well the posters communicate the message and how easy it is for those who see them to explain them to others. Next week, their audio recording will air on Royal Media Service’s Kamba station, Musyi FM.

Felipe recording an audio clip by one of the participants.

Felipe recording an audio clip by one of the participants.

As I sit here in my room listening to muffled voices in the corridor (and trying not to eavesdrop), I realize my biggest takeaways from this entire trip are nothing new:

1. Not everyone knows what you think they do. We live and work in a fish bowl, get out and visit a few ponds from time to time. Hardly any of our participants had ever heard of open data.
2. Forget what you’ve heard about first impressions. Last impressions are the most important. People don’t forget how you made them FEEL. They’ll forget your name, where they met you but they will remember that feeling you left them with last time.

So, the answer is no. Rural folk haven’t a clue what open data is :)