One journalist used it as a data source for a story on solar energy in Makueni County. Another accessed the data for inclusion in a piece on sanitary napkin distribution in East Pokot. Development partners reported relying on the data to coordinate specific activities in the Central Highlands of Kenya. And this is to say nothing of the government users of the data managed by the Electronic Project Monitoring Information System for the Government of Kenya (e-ProMIS), Kenya’s automated information management system on development projects funded by both domestic and foreign resources.
Introducing Kenya's automated information management system E-ProMIS
E-ProMIS is just one of a number of promising, open data initiatives pursued by the Government of Kenya in recent years. It has two primary aims. First, it was meant to improve the efficiency and transparency of Kenya’s national development planning, as well as enhance the coordination of reconstruction activities nationally. The system was designed to serve as the main project database and monitoring and evaluation reporting system for the Government of Kenya, as well as for development partner and non-government organization communities, as it ensures effective public access to development data.
Second, e-ProMIS was also was designed to make information on government spending and activities more readily available and accessible to the public for the purposes of improved transparency and accountability. Such disclosure is necessary for citizens to be able to hold their government to account for decisions around the proper allocation and use of domestic resources. The rationale for this is that transparency can lead to upward pressure on the quality of public policies and the results of development spending.
E-ProMIS has the potential to become a powerful tool for tracking and analyzing aid flows, from donors to the various implementing agencies within government. However, the problem lies in usage: despite a circular from the Treasury instructing line ministries to use it, e-ProMIS suffers from deficiencies in data supply (in terms of comprehensiveness, accuracy, and up-to-date-ness), which in turn leads to under-usage of the data. This creates a vicious cycle, as increased demand of the data would create pressure for improved quality and quantity of the data.
Report on open aid initiatives in Kenya
The Open Aid Partnership of the World Bank recently commissioned a case study of its engagement around open aid and open data more broadly in Kenya in order to understand the impact of such work. The research found small, but growing reliance of e-ProMIS as a data repository, albeit more tempered usage for project management and monitoring.
The primary finding was that issues of data quality and quantity are limiting the platform from being utilized: there is little incentive to update data and no robust data validation mechanism is present. During the report’s launch event at the World Bank’s Kenya country office, Christopher Oisebe, the manager of e-ProMIS, noted that this problem stems from a lack of greater buy-in from middle management within government. Such ownership is needed to create the necessary institutional frameworks to make comprehensive and timely reporting and validation a more standard practice among the relevant public officials involved.
The report reached five conclusions that could be applied to open aid data work elsewhere:
- System integration – the more integrated project management systems are with financial management systems, the better. To ensure uptake of data, effort should be made toward integrating systems, while ensuring well-defined modules designed specifically for particular user groups.
- Stakeholder coordination – the skills, needs, and expectations of all stakeholders should be clearly identified and targeted. As data producers and consumers rely upon one another, all stakeholders have to play their part for the whole to function.
- Policy inclusion – a clearly articulated policy, developed in conjunction with all relevant parties, is a necessary condition for high system performance. User roles must be clearly defined and definitions and delineations of data need to be articulated.
- User-friendly interface – data are only useful when they are used. As such, data portal interfaces must be centered on the users themselves. In particular, simpler formats will ensure that non-data experts can locate the relevant data, understand them, and put them to good use.
- Increased awareness and visibility – awareness building campaigns are essential. Furthermore, a coherent, sustainable strategy for how to reach the target audience with training, as well as post-training support, goes a long way to creating a virtual cycle of heightened-demand-generating-improved-supply.
To learn more about e-ProMIS, visit the web site at http://e-promis.treasury.go.ke/e-promis/.
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