Elections 2013 | Creating an Informed Electorate and How Open Data Can Help

By Rhoda
iHub Research
  Published 19th November 2012
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On March 4th , 2013, The President, Senators, County Governors, Members of Parliament, Civic Wards and Women County Representatives will be elected.These elections will be different from past ones as they will be primarily governed by the new constitution that was passed during the August 2010 referendum.

The default role of citizens is to exercise their right and duty by voting in their preferred candidate. However, as has been the norm, Kenyans tend to vote from a biased front, either based on their ethnicity or what material goods the vying candidate has offered to them. Since allegiances have been bought, the elected feels no obligation to carry out his duties towards the electoratewho then spend the next 5 years asking for government intervention.As the next election approaches, vying candidates engage in the same tribal alienation tactics, blinding the electorate.

For this viciously enslaving cycle to end, something’s got to give. . .

Citizens need to equip themselves with correct information so that they are empowered to vote for the right leaders. The first stop is the constitution.

However, Kenya has been referred to as a nation without a reading culture - expecting Kenyans to read the constitution was ambitious. The Kenyan government has done its part by creating the Kenya Open Data Portal where information is visualized in an easy to understand format that could enable citizens make wise decisions come March 4th, 2013.

Examples

Taking the example of the Kenya County Fact Sheet of 2011 interesting county information can be extracted: Health

Trailblazing on a healthy path is Kirinyaga county that has excelled in health service coverage having an 87.4% rate of having a qualified medical assistant during birth as compared to the national average of 37.6%; a similar 87.4% of expectant females who are have given birth in a health center whereas nationally, only 37.5% have delivered in a health center; with Wajir coming in as the last county with 5.1% and 5.4% on both health aspects.

Infrastructure

On infrastructure; the county leading with good or fair roads as compared to the totality of roads is Isiolo, with a 67.5% as compared to the national 43.5%. Additionally, Mombasa county has the best percentage of paved roads at 28.6% against a national rate of 9.4%. However both rates give an indication to the general poor state of roads in Kenya which may be a contributing factor to the increase in road accidents bolstered by the reckless driving witnessed that can only be surmounted through behaviour change.

Poverty Rates

The county with lowest poverty rate at 11.6% is Kajiado, while the national average is 47.2%. With what we experience, hear and see in the media, one would expect the national rate to be much higher. Not only does Turkana have the highest poverty rate at 94.3%, but it is also one of the counties that receives the least funding and has very little access to services.

Lamu comes in as the county that receives the highest funding per capita from Constituency Development Fund (CDF), Local Authority Transfer Fund (LATF), Single Business Permit revenues by LAs (Local Authorities) and Property Tax Revenues by Local Authorities. It receives 2,099 against a national 725. Lamu also tops the list as the county with the best access to improved water at 89.3% of total households (based on 2009 statistics) against a national rate of 66.5%, an indicated that most Kenyan households have access to improved water.

In contrast, Mandera county receives the least funding that translates in it lagging in many other areas. It has the lowest literacy rate at 9.9% who read and write against a national rate of 66.4%; it is second last in other education and health related service coverage aspects. This could be why it has the lowest HIV+ antenatal care clients. Nyamira county however has the highest literacy rate at 98.8%.

Population

On the population front, it is with no surprise that Nairobi is the most populous county with 3,138,369 persons against a national average of 821,491. Additionally, it has the highest density at 4,515 persons per km2 against a national 66 persons per km2. Contrary to what would be expected, it has the least number of persons with primary education at 50.3% against a national 66.6%, while Tharaka-Nithi has the highest primary education population at 75.1%. Nyeri however has the highest rate of its population with secondary education at 19.8% against a national 12.7% showing a sharp drop from those with primary education which may incline one to believe so much more less people are going to secondary school or that the free primary education program is working well.

Exposing Citizens to Information

When citizens are exposed to information as above, it empowers them to know the resources they have in their communities; the shortfalls therein (which allows them to pool together and thus strengthen their bonds); which leaders have been working to cover the shortfalls and how best to engage with them.This will result in reduced rhetoric from leaders, actual developments being undertaken and consequently, the growth and sustainability of communities and the nation at large.

Practically speaking Peter Kenneth launched his presidential bid on 4th November 2012 on a Kenya National Congress party ticket where he unveiled a 5 year plan that will focus on security, infrastructure, education, water conservation and healthcare to improve the lives of Kenyans. To verify his track record, we could use Mzalendo to search his personal profile that gives an overall thumbs up to him on aggregating his contactability, hansard appearances and CDF performance. Other open data tools that can be used include EduWeb and County Scorecard, among others, that have further broken down the information for the citizen to easily understand and consume it.

Come March 4th 2013, with a new constitutional dispensation, citizens should exercise their right anew, informed and empowered to vote for change.

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