Guest Blogger: My experiences digitizing community data

By Kelvin Laichena

My friends and I (about 10 volunteers) have been doing data entry work at the Open Institute for the last two weeks. We have been digitizing data from Lanet Umoja, Kirima, Bahati and Dundori locations in Nakuru North and more is still coming in. As a volunteer to perform the data entry, I am seeing what these figures are beginning to communicate and make sense to me.

I came to know about this project that Open Institute has been working on through a friend of mine, Candy, who had volunteered earlier. She told me about what they were working on, the data they were digitizing. Immediately I began to understand the importance of this kind of data to local communities in our country. I have always been concerned about the general welfare of the ‘Invisible Mwananchi’ (invisible citizen) to the society at large, since I come from a rural setup and I understand the so called ‘little problems’ that affect the lifestyles and living standards of these households. I was so happy to know that a group of volunteers is out there to voice those concerns deemed little by the wider society that adversely affect the wellbeing of these citizens. I didn’t wait for a call to volunteer. My heart was in for it a hundred percent. The next minute I was at Open Institute!

What I know about the work we are doing.

Over the past few years, Kenyan citizens have been suffering in silence due to lack of voices, supporting statistics and information to prove certain needs that the government can solve with ease.  Those problems include lack of basic community needs that are necessary to sustain human life such as water, medicine and medical facilities, roads and energy sources.

Terms most often used by citizens are MOST, MANY, A LOT to tell how much they need and what they lack. Thousands of Kenyans die every day due to lack of healthcare or lack of water, food and shelter. The community members lack communication skills to raise out their concerns therefore the government fails to heed due to lack of proper communication or proper information to prove that there is need for a certain citizen service that is required at a particular location.

Due to lack of information, citizens have set in their minds that facilities like community water or energy can only be achieved by individual efforts; leaving out the fact that the taxes they pay everyday is enough to provide for all these needs without any extra costs. This is the point where data matters the most to human life. Data have a tendency of giving power to every situation that needs evaluation. For example, in the presidential elections, data determines, the candidate to take the lead position because it gives insight that the candidate can use.

The Open institute has taken an initiative to collect data in Nakuru county the last few months, in order to identify major problems that face most citizens in the county through data of breadwinners, their spouses, the connection to their leaders using technology, their ability to sustain their basic needs,  health care information, energy information, household information and education information to identify issues that those households can work out together and solve them in conjunction with the government.

The question is, where do those households get the extra money to sustain all these needs?

What I have observed as I filled in the data

As I am keying in the data I have realized that a good number of households are not able to give the correct locations of residence which is a concern when it comes to social awareness. A good number of forms are unfilled in some sections.  I have realized that most of the households are not learned and lack any form of communication with their cluster leaders which means that most individual citizens concerns are not heard and handled with utmost care.

At the moment, I am working on Lanet-Umoja and aI have observed that most of the residents have an income of less than Kshs 5,000 yet their expenditures on water and sanitation and energy sources are way higher (up to Kshs 8,000). The question is, where do those households get the extra money to sustain all these needs?

The other major issues that are being identified is that most of the SECURITY cases such as theft are not acted upon when they are reported. The other concern that stands out is that the communities around these areas lack any special needs facilities such as schools for the disabled.  All the special needs cases that have been reported have not received any special assistance from the government. These cases have affected most needy persons who are in need of full assistance. Members report walking 11+ Kilometers to reach to their nearest healthcare units. Others walk Kilometers and Kilometers just to receive zero medical help due to lack of medicine to facilitate their health statuses.

As more data streams in I will be able to see the major issues that these households need addressed and from that, I will get to will be able to devise a way as a larger community which methods to apply to help these households to help themselves using all the available resources pulling all strings.

Challenges I have encountered

It has been quite some work sorting out the locations that have been incorrectly placed. Some forms have data which need skillful thought more than just the data entry. Trying to understand what the households are trying to tell us especially those filling information in the wrong places is time consuming and you find out that in a day you have been able to key in 20 forms of data and the other day 50.

Experience of the whole exercise

Working with open institute so far the whole feeling is super Amazing. The whole environment is cool and lovely. Everyone whom I have met so far in this office working towards the success of this project is very welcoming. It is both fun, educative and gratifying having such enthusiastic and brilliant minds working as medium voices for the citizens crying for Aid out there. I have been able to digest a lot of information concerning the needs that most of citizens generally need to be given attention and this makes me feel obliged to do the best I can to contribute in helping out those communities out their and being a voice for them.

 

Kelvin Laichena is a student at the University of Nairobi, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Architecture. “My goal after university is to inspire the coming generations to understand they all have a role to play in this society for the benefit of those who are not learned. Setting a centre for the needy in the society Is my major desire.”