Data-driven policymaking can help State to achieve desired outcomes

One essential factor in driving policy action is the availability of quality data as evidence. [iStockphoto]

Kenya is widely praised for its robust policies, several of which have been adopted by other countries in Africa. However, the crucial question remains: Do these numerous and well-documented policies translate into action and contribute to the country's development? There seems to be a missing link in effectively implementing policies and achieving desired outcomes. This raises the need to explore how policy can be effectively translated into action.

One essential factor in driving policy action is the availability of quality data as evidence. Efforts must be made to incentivise local scientists to consistently conduct research and communicate their findings clearly. This would provide the necessary evidence to convince advocates and policymakers to champion and implement these policies.

The Statistics Act of 2006, guided the establishment of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), and has been instrumental in collecting, analysing, and disseminating statistical data in the country. KNBS acts as the custodian of official statistical information. Additionally, the Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research, established in 1997, complements KNBS by providing quality policy advice.

To enhance the translation of policies into tangible outcomes, it is necessary to examine the policy process and ensure the availability of up-to-date, reliable, and relevant information about the population and development issues. This can be achieved by utilising comparative data from statistical institutions and supplementing it with locally generated data from scientists. 

The desired states of policy include alignment with individual needs, reflecting devolution aspirations and local development. It is essential to consolidate cross-cutting issues into comprehensive policies without losing sight of context-specific challenges that require targeted solutions. Furthermore, the establishment of a framework for inter-county development is necessary to ensure equitable progressive development across the board as it is evident that political alignment and leadership play a significant role in marginalisation and development disparities.

Several policy application areas have demonstrated the impact of effective translation. Public health policies focused on epidemic control have been shaped by monitoring morbidity and mortality trends and addressing disparities in health outcomes among different regions, racial groups, or genders and overall contributed to the enhancement of health systems' responses to emerging health challenges. Performance contracting and review in the public service sector have improved service delivery.

In the realm of climate change, policy-enabled spaces have witnessed the emergence of climate-smart innovations and strategies. These initiatives leverage digital technologies, data science, and artificial intelligence to promote climate resilience and sustainability. Global security actions have also been shaped by data and policy emerging from the fusion of cross-boundary intelligence. Collaborative efforts in intelligence sharing have informed strategic decisions in addressing global security challenges.

To further advance the translation of policies into action, several recommendations can be considered. Policy dialogue within a multi-sectoral regional network, such as the East Africa Community, could serve as a platform for discussing policies relevant to sectoral achievements and identifying existing gaps. Additionally, intensive community engagement is vital, utilising existing structures to identify community-specific challenges and address them using appropriate policy instruments.

Fostering relationships with communication and journalism experts can help effectively communicate policy issues from lawmakers to policy beneficiaries, particularly at the community level. This ensures that policies are clearly understood and implemented.

Last, domestic financing of development and policy agendas should be emphasised to avoid having policies that do not address local needs. By aligning financing mechanisms with national priorities, policies can be tailored to meet the specific needs and aspirations of the Kenyan population.

 Ms Adoyo is a Senior Researcher in Health systems and policy, Rongo University

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