In Kenya, it remains difficult for both watchdogs and citizens to understand how financial resources are utilised since it decentralised services from national to county-level governments in 2013.
PesaYetu is a data visualisation website designed to easily explore, interpret and report on budget-driven stories affecting counties. The primary audience is researchers and journalists who want to empower citizens at the county level to engage their leaders on issues concerning policy and governance
The Kenyan Constitution creates two levels of government - national and county governments, each with distinct functions. The national government has broad powers and policy setting duties over functions such as foreign affairs, use of international waters and water resources, immigration, transport, communication, national defence and internal security.
The county governments are responsible for providing a number of localised services, including agriculture, primary education, public amenities, cultural activities and healthcare. The county governments receive budgets and funding from the national government in order to implement their activities.
Each of the county governments develops and releases a County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) at the start of its 5-year term. The CIDP guides all public spending for the next five years.
However, corruption and misuse of funds in county-level governments is rife and the public isn’t equipped with the financial knowledge to hold them accountable. This is because the county financial data is haphazardly reported across many documents and in many different formats.
PesaYetu changes this by liberating county-level budget data and collating it into a single, cohesive open data platform to make government activities transparent and accountable. To create the datasets for the platform, budget PDFs were scraped, cleaned, tabulated and loaded onto PesaYetu which uses HURUmap, an open-source, ‘plug & play’ toolkit for embedding interactive data visualisations. Each dataset was analysed individually and the best chart type to visualise it was chosen.
While the tool can be used by the general public, its core audience is researchers and journalists who can use the budget information to shape data-driven reporting that in turn informs and empowers citizens to hold county governments accountable.
As the majority of the public relies on radio stations as their main source of news and information, alongside the development of the tool, 56 reporters at 14 grassroots radio stations across 8 counties were trained on data-driven reporting with a focus on budget and development issues in their county.
The pilot phase of the project focused on 8 Kenyan counties but will be expanded to all 47 counties and will be continuously updated with the latest data. This means that the project has the potential of impacting millions of citizens in Kenya.
While the initial focus of the project was Kenya, mismanagement of public funds is not a uniquely Kenyan problem. Many other countries in Africa experience the same challenges with government transparency and accountability. In the next 5 years, we plan to deploy similar projects in Uganda and Ethiopia. The data, visualisations on the platform are used in storytelling which is amplified across news websites and social media.
PesaYetu’s is open source and is available on GitHub for anyone to replicate and adapt to their local context.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
For the first time, citizens, researchers and journalists could go to one single portal to access county-level data which was tabulated and visualised in an easy to digest format.
The site has many key features to help spur the adoption of data-driven digital journalism and to improve local evidence-driven analysis and multimedia reporting on development issues.
- an interactive map showing which counties data is currently available for
- a searchable archive of the documents and datasets used to power the site
- a stories section that collates links to the data-driven pieces that journalists from the training programme have published
- a rich data function to visually explore the data
- a pin-and-compare function where users can select and compare the data for two counties
- download and share functions for the charts to enable wider sharing and dissemination of the data
What is the current status of your innovation?
Status: Diffusing Lessons. PesaYetu (https://pesayetu.pesacheck.org/) launched in April 2022 and is available for public use. We are regularly updating the platform with new datasets.
As stated previously, PesaYetu is open-source and available on GitHub (https://github.com/CodeForAfrica/PesaYetu) so that other organisations can reuse the tool in their local contexts both elsewhere in Africa and anywhere in the world. Open-source software and data is a key pillar of Code for Africa’s work as we believe it is a vital part of any civic tech innovation that seeks to empower citizens.
As mentioned earlier, we’re also exploring ways in which we can replicate the tool in other countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia .
Collaborations & Partnerships
- Data partners: The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and The Council of Governors, Kenya
- Funding partners: The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
- Civil society: Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET), Catholic Media Council
- Newsrooms: Amani FM, Baliti FM, Bus Radio, Ekialo Kiona, Ghetto FM, Koch FM. Mtaani Radio, Mwanedu FM, Pamoja FM, Radio Domus, Radio Shahidi, Ruben FM, Serian FM and Wajir Radio
- Counties government
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Key Stakeholders include:
- Newsrooms: 14 community radio stations and media partners used the data provided and training received on PesaYetu to produce 262 data journalism content pieces.
- Citizens: Through both the tool and the stories produced, citizens are empowered to understand their county’s development agenda and participate in political decision-making.
- CSOs, i.e. KCOMNET: received capacity building on tools to promote transparency on budget allocations through local media.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
PesaYetu has created data transparency for the development schemes of Kenyan county governments making the data accessible and available to citizens, key development agencies/stakeholders, politicians, administrators, NGOs and other media etc.
Using the data from PesaYetu, data journalism pieces and fact-checks were published on topics around agriculture, health, infrastructure and education.
A total of 262 content pieces were created using the data from PesaYetu. Of these:
- 33 were long-form journalistic stories
- 59 were radio reports
- 170 were social media stories shared on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
According to Google Analytics, since April 2022, PesaYetu received a 65.28% engagement rate.
Challenges and Failures
Covid-19 had a major impact on the implementation in terms of training the radio stations, which were planned to be in-person, but had to pivot to digital-first. This became a unique chance to transform in-person materials into content suited for online formats, such as WhatsApp.
Many media beneficiaries were financially stretched and understaffed so were unable to ‘release’ their staff for long periods to undertake trainings. Due to the pivot to digital training, the materials could be consumed asynchronously, relieving the pressure on the newsrooms to attend every session.
The data was messy and complex. Each county reports their data differently. Budget figures didn’t add up and there was no metadata available to verify abbreviations. Granular data wasn't straightforward to clean and visualise. To make fuller sense of the numbers and to standardise reporting, our data scientists were required to dig deeper to cross-reference findings by searching through a range of publications.
Conditions for Success
A number of conditions are required including standardised data; human and financial resources; and government buy-in.
Governments and their agencies must provide timely and well-structured data. In Kenya, data sets are supplied at the county level, but the national government can support the process by defining standardised reporting criteria to be used. Reporting bodies can supply granular data.
Collating data into meaningful sets and maintaining that tool code is time and cost-intensive. Healthy, consistent funding is key to not only implementing but maintaining such a tool.
The true power of the tool is in holding elected officials accountable for their use and misuse of public funds. To truly be effective, the tool needs buy-in at both the county and national government levels with effective law enforcement practices that uphold a free, open and fair government.
The code for PesaYetu is open source and available to the public on Code for Africa’s GitHub (https://github.com/CodeForAfrica/PesaYetu). This means that anyone can use the source code and replicate the platform.
At Code for Africa, we believe in reusing and reworking our tools to develop new tools. We foresee ourselves in the future using the HURUmap, the underlying infrastructure, to build tools with different themes.
Inconsistencies in the data was one of the main challenges for this project. In order to make fuller sense of the numbers and to standardise reporting, our data scientists took longer to cross reference findings by searching through a wide range of publications.
While we were aware the data needed for this project may be messy or difficult to find, we underestimated just how complex the data sourcing and cleaning would be. The project took a total of 18 months to complete against our initial estimate of six months. The lesson here is to create project buffers for data collection and to ensure you have sufficient financial and human resources to complete the work.
In addition, it was important to focus on a pilot group of counties (eight of the 47) to ensure a robust, bug free tool before rolling it out to all counties and other countries. This helped us to deliver quality with the potential to scale.
We invite you to take a look at the website: https://pesayetu.pesacheck.org to see the project in action.
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
25 January 2023