Counties rely on emails, USB drives to store data

Majority of counties store their data on emails of the Universal Serial Bus (USB) drives, a new survey says.

While some counties download and store data on staff computers, presenting challenges in accessing, using and sharing data for decision making purposes.

The findings are based on a survey done in four counties of Tharaka Nithi, Murang’a, Kakamega and Embu in August last year by the Local Development Research Institute (LDRI).

“The departments use a mix of government and personal computers for their work due to constraints in financing workforce infrastructure. Once collected, data is mainly stored on email, USB drives or downloaded onto computers,” said Muchiri Nyaggah, executive director of LDRI.

Nyaggah was speaking on Wednesday during a press club luncheon organised by LDRI and Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) in Nairobi.

Presidential Advisor on Women Rights Harriet Chiggai was the chief guest.

The survey meant to establish the data capacity levels against the counties’ ambition for development as laid out in the County Integrated Development Plan(CIDP).

According to LDRI, the departments require data disaggregated by various factors such as administrative units, gender, sex, age, income status, disability and education level.

"The availability of such disaggregated data isn’t always available,” he said.

In the survey, departments identified missing data, inadequate data volume and outdated data as challenges in the decision making at all levels of county governments and can have direct implications on service delivery, planning and resource allocation.

Ms Chiggai said: “The absence of such data is not only just about the missing faction of a society and their experience but they have serious consequences on development."

Ms Chiggai said when there are instances of high-quality gender data, there is need to illuminate the path forward.

“Without robust gender data, achieving gender equality becomes nearly impossible. Therefore investments in gender data can help us correct course and accelerate progress towards a more equitable nation,” said Chiggai.

She said there exists gaps, based on findings of  the LDRI study.

“It is clear that there is a need to adopt a gender mainstreaming strategy at all stages of data production. Unless counties are deliberate in finding the women in the data, development will not fully speak to the needs of the whole population,” said Chiggai.

Rosalia Omungo, chief executive officer KEG said one of the areas that call for precision is data journalism.

“It is one of the specialised sectors of reporting anywhere in the world and it calls for continued training for journalists so that they can understand how to mine data from various reports, such as the LDRI survey presented to us today. Accuracy in data interpretation and crunching of numbers promotes better understanding of issues being reported,” said Ms Omugo.

She added: “Most newsrooms in Kenya have in the past built teams around experienced reporters reporting in various beats. Data journalism remains a little undeserved. The larger newsrooms have managed to build solid teams, but given the nature of the topic, it requires more time and resources. Capacity building in this area needs to be scaled up.”

KEG called upon stakeholders to support capacity building initiatives for journalists in specialised areas such as data journalism.