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Global Goals

for Local

Photo Credit: GovernmentZA. Source:

Global goals for Local Impact

Progress has been uneven across

the world and across the goals.
There remain huge disparities
between and within countries.
Rural Poverty remains unacceptably
high and Urban Poverty is
extensive and under reported by
traditional indicators.

Kenyas President
Uhuru Kenyatta


Drop in people living in
extreme poverty

People (approx.)

People uplifted from slums
to better living conditions

The ambitious nature of the

Sustainable Development
Goals provide new
motivation to the world to
think differently about how
the goals can be delivered.

Photo Credit: W Biscuits Source:

1990 - 2010

The ambitious nature of the Sustainable Development

Goals provide new motivation to the world to think
differently about how the goals can be delivered.
Innovation is going to be a critical requirement to
ensure that the world achieves the goals. Essentially a
number of practical observations ring true:

With all this being true, the challenges that the world continues
to face remain great. As Kenyas President Uhuru Kenyatta
observed, Progress has been uneven across the world and
across the goals. There remain huge disparities between
and within countries. Rural Poverty remains unacceptably
high and Urban Poverty is extensive and under reported by
traditional indicators.

he global goals present the world with an

opportunity to rethink the models of development
and to review the models through which
that development is delivered. The global goals
have achieved one great merit that should be
acknowledged by the world - they did not allow for the
need for practicality to trounce ambition. Indeed,
some critics have noted that the goals may be too
ambitious. Much of the criticism has been based on
reviewing the practicality of delivering the goals.

It is generally agreed that much has been achieved globally in

the efforts to eradicate poverty, in strengthening the inclusion
of women, youth and people living with disabilities and in
providing basic services such as water and sanitation, health
facilities and access to markets. Between 1990 and 2010,
the number of people living in extreme poverty fell by half
as a share of the total population in developing countries,
from 43% to 21%a reduction of almost 1 billion people.
There have been significant reductions in the prevalence of
HIV and other life threatening illnesses such as Malaria and
Tuberculosis. Real concerted efforts have been seen to tackle
lifestyle related conditions such as diabetes, obesity and high
blood pressure. 100 million people have been uplifted from
slums to better living conditions globally.


In an article titled, The 169 Commandments the

Economist magazine noted that the 169 proposed
targets sprawling and misconceived, unfeasibly
expensive at $23 trillion per year, and so unlikely to
be realized that they amount to worse than useless
and even called them a betrayal of the worlds
poorest people.

orld leaders this year launched the Sustainable

Development Goals - also called the Global Goals.
These ambitious goals aim to end poverty, tackle
inequality once and for all and find lasting solutions to the
environmental challenges faced by the world - all within the
next fifteen years. The nature of these goals demonstrate the
worlds stance as articulated by US President Barack Obama
at the UN General Summit: ...sometimes its said that our
efforts to combat poverty and disease do not and cannot
work, that there are some places beyond hope, that certain
people and regions are condemned to an endless cycle of
suffering. Here, today, we put those myths to rest. Today,
we set aside the skepticism, and we lift up the hope that is
available to us through collective action.

Global goals for Local Impact

Global goals for Local Impact

Global goals for Local Impact

In the context of the SDGs,

Real GDP Growth may not
be adequate to indicate the
progress of poverty reduction

Photo Credit: TREEAID. Source:

ondon School of Economics anthropologist, Jason

Hickel, said in a recent article, The real problem
is that the SDGs are profoundly contradictory, to
the point of being self-defeating. Hickels view is
that because the global goals have placed significant

One size will not fit all we must rethink approaches

Photo Credit: Yoel Ben-Avraham Source:

emphasis on economic growth - therefore on increasing

extraction, production and consumption - they are
themselves unsustainable because in his words, the
relationship between growth and reduction of poverty is
tenuous. Hickel analyses, Of all the income generated
by global GDP growth between 1999 and 2008, the
poorest 60 percent of humanity received only 5 percent
of it. Given the existing ratio between GDP growth and
the income growth of the poorest, it will take 207 years
to eliminate poverty with this strategy, and to get there,
we will have to grow the global economy by 175 times
its present size.
There has been research to back this view up. A report
developed by Deloitte UK, in conjunction with Social
Progress Imperative, found that even high economic
growth will not get the world close to meeting the UNs
new Global Goals. The report observes that [Delivering
on the goals] will require a shift away from a reliance
on growth alone. Cultural shifts, scaling social
innovation and cross-sector collaboration will all be
necessary to solve societys biggest challenges.

he global goals have been criticised by some as

being vague - and yet by others as being overly
specific in their targets. In a sense, both of these
views are right. The universality of the SDGs means
that they apply to all people - for example, the world
aims to end poverty and hunger everywhere from the
stereotypical remote parts of Somalia to the streets of
San Francisco.
It is therefore crucial for us to acknowledge that the
approach in addressing these problems cannot be
the same. Indeed, because of the gross inequalities
within nations, there is need for a review of the way
that development is delivered. Aid for example should
become more tailored and flexible to address the needs
of specific populations as locally as possible. The SDGs
allow countries to align the targets to national priorities.
It would be best that the SDG targets are defined at
even more local level because villages and cities differ even within countries. Nanyuki in Kenya for example has
very distinct priorities from Meru - a mere 2 hours drive

Everyone counts - Diverse
stakeholders are crucial for the
delivery of the global goals

The role of citizens in this context cannot be gainsaid.

The implementation of the Millennium Development
Goals in the past 15 years focused mostly on government
and civil society with citizens in particular having a
peripheral role to play in the planning, budgeting and
delivery of activities relating to poverty reduction.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, there has been documentation
of many projects that were done for citizens which
ended up being white elephants because citizens had no
ownership. Al Kags has shared a personal experience
while working for a Kenyan foundation in 2010.

Photo Credit: CIFOR. Source:

hile the nature of high level goals as this have

a real dependence on the leadership and
actions of governments and civil society players,
the prevailing reality shows that the goals must be
undertaken through partnerships between governments,
civil society organisations, private sector, media and
most of all citizens. Initiatives geared towards delivering
on the global goals must by their basic nature be multistakeholder based.

Bring the goals home - the
SDGs can best be delivered

Photo Credit:Rod Waddington Source:

He told of a community in northern Kenya where a wellmeaning organisation built a set of toilets for the children
of a remote school. The toilets had running water
pumped from a well nearby. There was a ceremony
during which the CEO of the organisation officially
opened the nicely painted toilets and the keys to the
toilets were handed to the headteacher. One year later,
the CEO of the organisation did a trip to the school to
see how they were doing and was dismayed to find that
the toilets were not being used by the children because
they would dirtify them. The children instead had
been built for a set of latrines nearby which they used.
There was no running water in the school or for the
surrounding community. The pump got spoilt and we
had to wait for you to come so that you can help us fix
it, the CEO was told.
When citizens determine their priorities and are involved
in the design and implementation of projects in their
area, there is more sustainable development.

f ordinary citizens are to be involved in the delivery of

the SDGs, then the conversation must located around
their circumstances. In our experience at the Open
Institute, working with farmers, artisans and educators
in Kenya, we have found that the everyday person
does not understand data in its pure form. In addition,
even though technology has become considerably
more ubiquitous in many parts of sub-saharan Africa,
it has not been widely used for purposes of improved
governance and citizen participation.
In a town hall meeting that we held in Western Kenya
together with the local government, we found that while
citizens were aware of macrodata relating to the area what caused them to truly participate was when the data
involved their immediate livelihoods. Further discussions
with focus groups on what citizens cared about yielded
such feedback as given Mr. A.S. Shikhati (52 year old
teacher and small businessman) in this transcript excerpt:

Global goals for Local Impact

I have never seen a Million shillings at once, let alone

a billion. Even my land did not cost that. How can I
understand when you tell me how many millions are
allocated to my county? And I am an educated man but you must understand I am busy trying to fend for
my children and make a living. So the only thing that
I can follow as a citizen is the things that affect my life
day-to-day. For example, water for my farm, the state of
the road, the state of the classroom that I teach in, the
prices of my produce at the market and whether I can
trade after 6pm. I want to know about our dispensary
and I want to know when the ward in the district hospital
will be finished. But when I read in the paper that the
Cabinet Secretary has stolen 15 Billion shillings, I cant
react because its too much work to take time and
understand what 15 Billion shillings looks like.

and skills of those as a means of eliminating extreme

poverty. Such data would also enable government and
donors to better target resources for greater impact.
As the data revolution gains momentum, governments
and other concerned stakeholders will have to ensure
that data is managed and curated so that it is relevant to
citizens direct needs. It is also crucial that in providing
this data, it is presented in ways that engender easy
understanding. We at the Open Institute promote usage
of not just technology, but also the usage of paper e.g.
posters with visualizations of data posted at the local

Bringing the SDGs home, will eliminate the nebulous

nature of development activities. Ultimately, this relevant
data that involves the local economy and society can be
collected by the local administration and government
and shared within that area. Some of the data that we
have so far realised is relevant include:
A local census of people, occupations, households,
access to facilities e.g. water, education etc.
A mapping of the locally available resources from
shops to water points to electricity, etc.
A locally developed catalogue of priorities.

...I cant react because its

too much work to take
time and understand what
15 Billion shillings looks

The world can achieve its Global Goals

if it understands that it is citizens who will
make it happen - street by street, village
by village, province by province.

Photo Credit: Yoel Ben-Avraham Source:

Al Kags, Founder
Open Institute

Photo Credit: South African Tourism Source:

Based on this data, the local governments and

administrations could set their SDG related targets
together with the people. Related to goal No.1 (End
Poverty) for example, local people and governments are
able to know the specific people that are unemployed or underemployed that could use additional work. They
also would know how best to improve the livelihoods

OIs 6 Big Lessons at Work for Impact Using Data

OIs 6 Big Lessons at Work for Impact Using Data



Citizens have a
voice and they will
use it if given the
opportunity and if
they think it can do
some good.

hile citizens have generally exercised their voice

in elections every four or five years, they usually
have taken to going back to their everyday jobs and
lives, leaving it to their representatives to iterate on
development. The growth of social media and the
increased transparency by governments has enabled
more citizens to speak up and give their opinions on
issues that affect them.
In the course of our work, we have found that when
citizens are given platforms to express their views,
they will do so clearly. In late 2014, we took a county

government official to a radio station where we

organised for him to talk about the governments
progress impact. Thereafter, he spent two hours taking
calls from citizens giving him ideas of what the county
government should do to make their lives better. Some of
these ideas the county government took up.
We have learnt that there is an opportunity for citizens
to be given innovative platforms to exercise their voices
on a continuous basis. We also appreciated that citizens
will express their views when they believe that the right
authorities are listening and could act on their ideas.

Citizens care
about data when
it is directly
relevant to their
and livelihoods

onceptually, it is widely agreed that Open Data is

ultimately a fundamental aspect of driving citizen
participation in development and governance. That
being the case, questions have been raised within the
Open Data development community about the true
impact of Open Data on citizens. Does the availability of
data really impact citizens? Do citizens have accessibility
to data? Is the Data relevant and of value to citizens?
Do citizens really need data or do they just care about
information from data that has already been analysed?
This was evidenced in the work and pilots we have
carried out. For example, when working with Open
finance data, a pilot was developed in one of the
counties to evaluate the demand for data. It emerged
that citizens were not aware that the data existed and
once they did, showed a willingness to not only share
the data with their constituents but also find creative and

innovative ways to do. This included partnering with

intermediaries such as community radio stations. On
a national scale, when the Kenya Open Data Initiative
(KODI) launched, it was envisioned that by making data
available, citizens would automatically interact with the
data. This however was not the case and a number
of strategies needed to be deployed to make the data
available even though the data was relevant to citizens.
This resulted in initiatives such as Data literacy camps,
fellowship programs and grassroot citizen outreach
We have learnt that just making data available will not
result in demand and use of data. The data must be
high level and relevant to citizens. That even if data is
relevant, both online and offline strategies together with
stakeholder interaction have to be designed if there is
going to be demand and use for data.

OIs 6 Big Lessons at Work for Impact Using Data

OIs 6 Big Lessons at Work for Impact Using Data



Open Data initiatives

have the highest
impact when they
use an ecosystem

any Open Data initiatives have focused on creating

snazzy web and mobile apps that are very cool
but that are not used. Hundreds of thousands of dollars
have been spent by many organisations to experiment
on building tools that are shiny but that have had
little usage from the citizens. These experiments are
cumulatively useful for developing lessons on what works
or doesnt work in using technology for transparency and
One of the projects that we continue to be passionate
about is Open Duka, whose first iteration has been
completed. The project saw us surface over 30,000
datasets on people in the public domain, land data,
procurement data and so on. Open Duka, which
visualises the relationships between the entities, was
relatively successful from a technology perspective and

in engaging developers through its API. The project was

relatively less successful in citizen usage.
In contrast, the Open County Dashboard (http://kenya. saw a lot more citizen usage as we
implemented in its first phase a multi-stakeholder
approach. We engaged the county governments and
Civil Society Organisations to strengthen the supply side
of the data and CSOs and citizens in counties and we
saw a lot more usage of the data in town hall meetings
and participatory budgets activities.
We have learnt that Open Data projects are most
successful when we take an ecosystem approach to the
projects - therefore involving all stakeholders from the

are all different.
Creating a demand
driven ecosystem for
data is not a one
size fits all.

aving piloted and launched various data driven

initiatives a common trend has emerged in regards
to creating citizens demand for data. Citizens and the
environment they live in are not the same. In order to
drive demand for data, the approach we have taken
is to firstly identify and scope the environment. The
scoping exercise involves identifying various aspects from
learning about the state of infrastructure and accessibility
( both hardware and software), the aspect of literacy
towards understanding the data not just by citizens but
by all stakeholders, the identification of champions that
the citizens would trust who would then be a catalyst

for citizens to encourage data use, and the current

relationships of various stakeholders - Government, Civil
Society Organisations, media and the community.
We have learnt that Open Data projects are successful if
we are able to understand and accept that every region
is different and we are not able to use a one size fits
all strategy. It is important to scope the area to identify
the gaps and opportunities needed to drive demand for


OIs 6 Big Lessons at Work for Impact Using Data

OIs 6 Big Lessons at Work for Impact Using Data



uring our first annual conference, Buntwani

2014, we found many examples of Civil Society
Organisations that were implementing the same kind of
programmes, with similar activities in the same counties
- often engaging the same people. This is a common
occurrence in the sector. It has led to many cases of
duplication, disjointed development activities and wasted

As we have continued to interact with different

organisations - especially through our regularly held
Data Literacy Camps (DataLitCamp), we have been
deliberate to broker cooperation between two or more
organisations, who we found to have complimentary
We have learnt that movements of cooperating partners
yield greater development results and increase efficiency.











There is an
opportunity for
CSOs and community
media to strengthen


n the course of our work - first with the Kenya

Open Data Initiative, later with the Open County
programme and other locally driven work such as
building capacity with local CSOs in some counties on
Service Delivery Indicators (SDI) - we found that citizens
are more animated and have greater contributions
to issues relating to their immediate surroundings. As
we experimented with different Open Data work, we
understood that citizens pay more attention to data and
analysis relating to their immediate surroundings.
We further found that because county governments are
closer to the people, citizens felt more empowered to
contribute to policies and issues arising in their counties


Open Data can have

far greater impact
at sub-national
level than at national

more than they interacted with national level data.

In a forum that we held in Kakamega this year, Yusuf
Oswago, a community leader in Vihiga sub-county said
to great applause, we may read in the papers issues
relating to billions being stolen by leaders but it is hard
to relate. I have never even touched a million shillings,
how will I understand billions? I just want to know how I
will get (piped) water and electricity at my home.
We have learnt that people care about what is
happening in their neighbourhoods and they have
greater capacity to understand local issues more than
national matters that are often too difficult for them to
follow up on.


Global goals for Local Impact

Global goals for Local Impact

(Where it all started)

he Open Institute was founded by two Kenyan

friends, Al Kags (pictured left) and Jay Bhalla
(pictured right) in 2012. Their relationship started
around 2005, when they both were entrepreneurs
working in the technology space in Nairobi, Kenya. At
that time, Jay was running Speechnet Technologies, a
voice technologies company and Al was working with
In the early 2000s, working with non-infrastructure
technologies was challenging because the infrastructure
in Kenya did not exist. In 2006, when the Kenyan
government set up a new Ministry of Information and
Communications, Jay and Al began collaborating with
the government to develop the ICT Policy for the country.
The Policy was launched by President Mwai Kibaki in
September 2006 and it had these major milestones:
Infrastructure (fibre optic installation), Access (ensuring
that Kenyans had access to the internet), Content
(Facilitating Kenyans to create value from the internet)
and Improved Public Services (Enabling Public Service
delivery using technology). Over the years, the duo
have been consistent figures working alongside the
government of Kenya to deliver on this policy, mostly as
unpaid volunteers - although Al worked with the Kenya
ICT Board (now Kenya ICT Authority) for two years.
On May 8th, 2011, the duo began working with the
government to establish the Kenya Open Data Task
Force which was convened on the orders of the then
President Mwai Kibaki by the then Permanent Secretary,
Dr. Bitange Ndemo. Al was appointed as the chair of the
Taskforce that was essentially a SWAT team that brought
together government officials, Civil Society organisations,

Private Sector players and the World Bank to develop

the Kenya Open Data Initiative (build Kenyas Open
Data portal, prepare data that was provided by the
government and develop Kenyas Open Data policy for
approval by cabinet). The team successfully delivered this
and it was launched by the president on July 8th 2011,
barely 7 weeks from the day of the first conversation.
Over the years, Open Institute has played a role in a
number of widely varied pilot projects with varied results.
This wide ranging experience both as an implementer
of transparency, citizen engagement and sub-national
projects as well as as builders of tools designed to keep
the citizens engaged, has provided interesting lessons for
the team going forward.
For us, it remains important that government and
citizens bridge the chasm that has grown over the past
hundred years and that citizens are directly involved in
their governance, said Jay. Building on this success,
Jay and Al opened the doors of the Open Institute with
a view to institutionalising their work to build bridges
between citizens and governments.


Jay Bhalla

Al Kags

met in

was working
with MCLabs.

was running Speechnet



New Ministry of Information and
Communications established,

Policy was launched by

President Mwai Kibaki

They collaborated with the government to

develop the ICT Policy


It had these major milestones:

Infrastructure (fibre optic installation),
Access (ensuring that Kenyans had access to
the internet),
Content (Facilitating Kenyans to create value
from the internet)
Improved Public Services (Enabling Public
Service delivery using technology)

May 8th,

July 8th,

Began working with the

government to establish the
Kenya Open Data Task Force to
develop the Kenya Open Data

Launched by the president,

barely 7 weeks from the day of
the first conversation

Founded The Open Institute



The Open Institute
Tel: +254 20 523-1480
Cover Photos Credit:
1) Woman - Alvise Forcellini. 2) Maasai - Bartams. 3) Samburu Girl- Dietmar Temps. 4) Fruits - Christing-O. 5) Building - Computerwhiz417
6) Artefacts- Jose Carlos Babo
All images sourced from