Community call: ESRI and HealthEnabled dashboards, 22 November

With a range of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) data platforms and dashboards emerging to help aggregate and analyse SDG data, we thought it could be a good time to learn more about how to use these tools by hearing from DataShift community members involved in building some of them.

So DataShift will be hosting a series of webinars for our colleagues to present and discuss their work.

We invite you to our first webinar on 22 November at 9am EST / 2pm GMT / 5pm EAT (additional time zones); where ESRI and HealthEnabled will be sharing the uses and benefits, as well as challenges of their dashboards with us.

About ESRI

ESRI technology combines maps with data so you can see the world in a smarter way. They have built ArcGIS, the most powerful mapping software in the world. ArcGIS connects people with maps, data, and apps through geographic information systems (GIS). It is a location platform that’s accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

View their dashboard.

About HealthEnabled

HealthEnabled is a nonprofit organisation that activates effective integrated digital health systems and supportive health policies in low- and middle-income countries by advising governments and health programs, facilitating connections among experts, and promoting best practices in digital health.

View their dashboard.

Presenters will have 10 minutes to present their dashboard, thereafter the line will be open for discussion, so RSVP today and join us for an interactive and participative discussion.

If you would like to share your platform in an upcoming webinar, please email Cassia Moraes: and Hannah Wheatley: .

Citizen-generated data for the Sustainable Development Goals: Lessons learnt from SDG 5 monitoring and accountability in Kenya and Tanzania

In this Briefing on Country Level Monitoring of SDGs we share experiences from DataShift’s deep-dive on SDG 5 (achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls) in Kenya and Tanzania. Our work in the region shows that the manifestation of gender equality within the community is directly linked to government service delivery and women’s access to economic opportunities, which is essential for meeting the needs of women and girls.

Community call summary – Ma3Route’s mobility solution

On 12 September, Ma3Route CEO, Stephane Eboko shared the organisations’ experiences in improving the commutes of their application users, by providing real-time information on traffic in Kenya.

Ma3Route is a mobile, web and SMS platform that crowdsources transport data and provides users with information on traffic, matatu (referring to public transport minibuses in Nairobi) directions and driving reports. Their aim is to make travelling in developing countries easier, by providing timely transport information, informing city planning and transport regulation.

The popular app has over 500,000 active users and has been downloaded more than 40,000 times, making them a leader for traffic information in East Africa. In Nairobi, the most popular means of transportation are minibuses, however, the Ma3Route smart mobility concept considers a wide user base of all types of commuters, including car and bus drivers – 60% of which are between the ages of 18 – 44 years old. 65% of users access the service on their mobile phones, while 35% of users are accessing it from a computer. What is exciting for this small team of researchers, developers and marketing professionals is the use of various channels such as their website, app and social media to disseminate traffic information. They have gained a following of over 500,000 followers on Twitter.

With more than half the world’s population living in cities, it is estimated that by 2030, 6 out of 10 people will be urban dwellers. Ma3Route’s innovative mobility solution is a great response for addressing Sustainable Development Goal 11, “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. In addition to impacting city-related targets under SDG 11, it also has a great impact on health (SDG 3) and safety outcomes. Their crowdsourced information is addressing Nairobi’s core traffic challenges.

After the webinar, participants were invited to send in their questions to Stephane:

Serge Kapto from the UNDP:  Is the information provided to or shared with government/municipal authorities, to help manage congestion and urban planning?

Stephane: Our Data Science team has used our crowdsourced data to analyse critical datasets, to send alerts and to spread awareness in order to complement government efforts and surveillance systems.

Through this “AccidentKE” initiative, using Ma3Route aggregated data over a six month period, we were able to create a heat map where most crashes occurring in Nairobi were geo-coded.

For example, the data revealed that 42.5% of accidents involving a pedestrian happened within 500 meters of a footbridge, a distance that takes only 15 minutes to walk! This suggests that an urban design problem is contributing to traffic fatalities in Nairobi.

Using this data, an interactive and powerful visualisation tool was created which highlights how dangerous the major transportation corridors are in Nairobi – the results are in line with official data, which was made available to all public stakeholders.”

DataShift’s Hannah Wheatley: How is Ma3Route used differently than Waze?

Stephane: “Our users  share messages and pictures to foster a more efficient commute. It’s very contextual and also hyper-local information, as users contribute using their language of preference (English, Swahili or the local slang). In addition, we collect and share paratransit information from individuals at a dramatically lower cost. The fact that our service is multi-platform, provides various touch points. Finally, our service is also available through SMS, which makes it accessible to people equipped with feature phones.”

Mtandao wa Malezi ya Watoto Wadogo Tanzania: How would the interactive and essential contribution be assured to reach the community without discrimination?

Stephane: “By definition, in a crowdsourcing service, users create and share information. Part of the challenge is to ensure the quality of information, which is why in addition to our natural language processing algorithm, we also have a small team of moderators who verify the information. Once the information is shared, it’s available for everyone to see it, engage and make an informed decision about their travel, whether they’re private car owners, taxi drivers, matatu riders, cyclists or pedestrians.”

Other examples of initiatives leveraging citizen participation in transport:

  • Last year Ma3Route took part in a project called “Zusha” (meaning “speak out” in Swahili). The project allowed for local minibus customers to engage on Ma3Route digital platforms to call out drivers when they were not following driving rules. As a result, minibus users who engaged in the project saw their likelihood of getting in an accident decrease by 30%.
  • There is currently a community-driven project in Nairobi called #whatisaroad, which aims at improving the infrastructure in the city. What is it about? Users can take a picture of a pothole, turn on their GPS and share the data on a map. Hopefully, the authorities will access this aggregated information and make the necessary changes.

We apologise for the technical difficulties experienced during the webinar. While we do not have a recording, the presentation is still available for download here.

Announcing our DataShift Community Seed Funding Challenge winner

We are excited to announce the winner of the DataShift Community Seed Funding Challenge. Congratulations to Data Labe – Observatório de Favelas do Rio de Janeiro and Casa Fluminense, who submitted a project proposal of an online data-generating platform, which will allow people to map and flag areas where there are open sewers, rubbish accumulation and lack of access to water. Through user-friendly mobile technology, they aim to make it possible for inhabitants of informal and low-income settlements in Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan region, to map situations that violate the right to basic sanitation; including lack of access to water and waste collection and treatment.

A huge thank you to everyone who entered. We had an overwhelming response, receiving over 60 applications, making the decision to pick just one winner really hard. But in the end Data Labe and Casa Fluminense’s proposal was chosen because of the way the project idea emphasised the role of citizen-generated data in monitoring sustainable development issues at the local level, developing a participatory tool in which citizens can both condemn infrastructure problems in their community and report – in a participative manner, solutions for sanitation in Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan region. Their proposal tackles Sustainable Development Goals; 1 (No Poverty), 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), 11 (Sustainable Cities) and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions).   

DataShift will provide Data Labe and Casa Fluminense with guidance throughout the proposal development process. However, as the challenge aims to foster collaboration, experimentation, and innovation on citizen-generated data, they will be expected to share updates and solicit inputs and feedback from other members of the DataShift Community during the proposal development process.

To those who submitted entries that were not selected, thank you once again for participating. We trust that you will use the Community platform to share more information about your concept and request solicit feedback and potential partners to take the idea forward. The DataShift team will also be connecting those applicants whose concepts seem to have the potential to link up with other similar CGD initiatives, including both those at the idea stage and those already well established.

The DataShift team is really looking forward to seeing this first Seed Fund Challenge initiative on the use of citizen-generated data for Sustainable Development Goals monitoring come to life and engage the wider Community.

Keep up to date with our winners progress by joining our DataShift community email discussion list. You can also receive updates, share experiences, knowledge, challenges and questions on using citizen-generated data for social, environmental and economic change.

Community Call: Disaster Accountability in Nepal

On 25 April 2015, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the magnitude scale struck Nepal, a major aftershock occurring on 12 May. These massive quakes killed more than 8800 people, injured over 21,000, damaged nine million homes and pushed 2.5% – 3.5% of the population back into poverty.  

In the wake of these devastating earthquakes in Nepal, the Nepalese government and other actors turned its attention to humanitarian assistance. Aiming at monitoring and improving earthquake response, Local Interventions Group (LIG) together with Accountability Lab (AL) started the Mobile Help Desk, an initiative that would close the information loop that exists between the public and the government while simultaneously, plugging these gaps by directly providing essential information to earthquake victims.

On 10 August, DataShift hosted a Community Call, inviting Quincy Wiele from Local Interventions Group (LIG) and Sara Rodriguez Accountability Lab (AL) to share their experiences in providing opportunities for Nepalese to be more involved in the disaster recovery process and holding their government accountable.

Local Interventions Group uses data to promote better governance and have previously used data for security mapping with the police and tracking district official absenteeism. The Accountability Lab works to promote accountability and transparency to reduce corruption building a new generation of active citizens and responsible citizens around the world. Together they started the Quake Help Desk.

After a natural disaster, the international community and citizens are often generous with financial support for survivors. That money however, is entrusted to the government; often with no strings attached. When governments are given a blank check for disaster relief and recovery, how can citizens hold them accountable for how that money is spent? In response to this, the Quake Help Desk conducted earthquake-related activities such as;

  • providing advocacy related information to citizens rights regarding earthquake relief,
  • conducting community perception surveys,
  • connecting citizens with different organisations,
  • tracking rumours,
  • providing earthquake-related information,
  • monitoring the finance flows,
  • encouraging communities to discuss on the state of post-earthquake responses, and
  • making sure that people in localities are receiving the support they have been promised.

Through these range of activities, LIG and AL were able to close the loop on the earthquake response in Nepal. Their disaster accountability work called “Follow the Money”, allowed them to track relief disbursement into 14 affected districts, down to the village level. The collected data was analysed, cleaned and visualised on an online platform, with the objectives of:

  • reducing corruption, through providing empirical evidence to the government of funding irregularities,
  • strengthening public capacity, and
  • raising awareness by reminding citizens of their entitlements.

One way of tracking, involved conducting community perception surveys. Through these surveys they found that by listening to people’s needs and comparing the discrepancies between districts, the humanitarian community was able to adapt its response to specific circumstances – improving the overall earthquake response.

In order to close the feedback loop, their “Open Mic Project” ensured that people had access to correct earthquake related information, thus reducing the potentially harmful/inflammatory impacts of incorrect information.



Through these activities, LIG and AL were also able to have an impact beyond their initial objectives. They mobilised over 100 volunteers, hired more than 100 community frontline associates, exposed more than 80,000 people and monitored more than 1,000 villages; identifying over 20 different issues. Over 25 humanitarian organisations and government agencies are using the data.  

Quincy and Sara also shared their findings with us during the call. It was clear that transparency and accountability lacked at every level. Their work also showed that during the first eight months after the earthquake, negative perceptions about relief and the reconstruction process remained consistent, with slight improvements noticed after this period. In July 2016, 79% of people felt their reconstruction issues were not being addressed, showing that the reconstruction process is still viewed unfavourably. Initial data from “Follow the Money” showed that significant funding discrepancies existed and that significant levels of corruption existed in the relief process.

The team was also confronted with challenges, such as; managing high expectations as it was sometimes difficult to ask for data without providing tangible assistance to victims. Communication was key for overcoming this, as the team worked hard to build trust within the communities. Accessing remote communities also posed as a challenge, however, by hiring locals or being close to survey areas to minimise journey time – they found a way around it. Another challenge they encountered was survey fatigue, with more than 12 organisations doing similar work. It was thus difficult to convince the community that they would benefit from continuously sharing their experience.

Quincy and Sara have learnt that in these situations, you have to strike while the iron is hot, as it is difficult to continue mobilising for earthquake response, when it is already considered “old news”. They also learned the importance of building good relationships with the government, which ultimately gave them more leverage. By avoiding pointing fingers at government and humanitarian agencies, they have managed to maintain a positive approach to their work. Going forward, LIG and AL are developing a toolkit with lessons learned to be shared with other countries facing similar situations and hope that this model can be replicated for other disaster accountability.

We would like to thank Quincy and Sara for sharing their experience and insights with us. Their presentation can be downloaded here. Also, be on the lookout for our next Community Call, more information coming soon.

Learn how DataShift provided direct support to LIG at

Community call recording and summary: Africa’s Voices’ experiences with engaging citizens, analysing local language data, and demonstrating its credibility

On Monday 27 June, we hosted a DataShift community call with Africa’s Voices in which we discussed three common challenges that many organisations working with citizen-generated data face:

  • how to build and sustain citizen engagement,
  • how to collect and analyse local language data, without relying on translation, and
  • how to demonstrate validity and credibility of citizen data.

Below you will find a recording of their presentation, and a summary of the subsequent discussion. Throughout this week, you can ask any additional questions to Africa’s Voices via Twitter by using our #DataShift hashtag. If you are interested in sharing your experience on a DataShift community call, please contact us and consider joining our community email discussion list!

Thank you Claudia Lopes and Rainbow Wilcox for sharing what you’ve learned with us, and for being so open and responsive to questions!

Summary of the subsequent discussion:

On building capacity: Africa’s Voices works closely with partners and radio presenters to build their capacity throughout the project period. Trainings for the radio presenters, for example, are often around engagement strategies, like how to ask questions to the audience in a way that encourages participation from women and hard to reach groups. Africa’s Voices has created this toolkit for radio stations (with Internews). Sometimes the stations continue to run these kinds of interactive shows, which gives them an opportunity to test these new tools. But other times, the costs (fees for short codes for example) is just too high. 

On sharing insights back to the community: After a series of radio shows focused on the topic being researched, Africa’s Voices aims to dedicate the last show to sharing insights back to the community. Members of the community are invited to join the radio presenters for that last radio program.

On impact: Although it is too early to know what impact the UNICEF Somalia pilot project will be, UNICEF is very enthusiastic about the approach and findings, especially as it is difficult for them to gather large scale qualitative and quantitative insights on the ground in Somalia. UNICEF has already requested an additional three radio series to gather further insights about the health beliefs and behaviours of Somali people.

Factors for success:

  • Africa’s Voices pilot research consistently found a bias towards men and more educated audiencesregarding  engagement. But after trying some different approaches (working with a media partner to develop radio scripts, testing with focus groups the wording and cultural adequacy of the scripts and questions, etc), they were able to change this trend across many projects. For the UNICEF Somalia project, 44% of participants were women!
  • They also learned that it is really helpful to get the radio presenter on board from the beginning – if they are excited and engaged, the project is likely to be more successful.
  • In terms of helpful resources and support along the way, Africa’s Voices attribute much if its learning to “learning by doing”, being so closely connected to a University, and road-testing collaboration with partners through pilot studies. Africa’s Voices is interested in continuing to share their knowledge and learnings via their website (see these toolkits), blog, and communities of practice (like this DataShift community).

On finding the right partners: And finally, in terms of finding the right organisations and radio stations to work with, many times it’s the client organisation that determines these partnership, but networking opportunities is introducing Africa’s Voices to new partners. They find that testing new partnerships through small pilots is a great way to explore expectations and ways of working – to know if it’s an effective collaboration. When selecting radio stations, they research things like: the reach of the stations, and their enthusiasm in the project.

Webinar recording and e-forum summary: How citizen-generated data can accelerate progress toward the SDGs

Watch the webinar!

On 5 May, 2016, we co-led a webinar on How citizen-generated data can accelerate progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals in partnership with the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) Knowledge Platform. In the webinar recording (below), Jeff Hall, freelance consultant, and Cassia Moraes, DataShift, explore the ways that citizen themselves can contribute data that accelerates the accountable delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through case studies and practical examples, the speakers examine:

  • the complementarity of citizen-generated data and national statistical data,
  • the importance of “perception-based” data,
  • the contribution of citizen-generated data to more equitable service delivery, and
  • The practical value of citizen-generated data at the local level.  

The original webinar description and recording can be found on the GPSA Knowledge Platform.

Summary of e-forum

Following the webinar, 15+ practitioners from all over the world continued the discussion in an e-forum. The discussion was hosted from 5 to 19 May on the GPSA Knowledge Platform. The participants represented 13 countries: Bangladesh, Uganda, United Kingdom, Ecuador, Mozambique, Canada, United States, Togo, India, Senegal, South Africa, Nepal, and Palestine. These practitioners approached this topic from a variety of disciplines, including health, environment, water, disaster-response, humanitarian aid, and other public services/responsibilities. Below is a summary of the main points raised during this 2-week forum. 

Engaging citizens to contribute to data-collection

Mobile tools and platforms for engagement

In terms of mobile tools and platforms that are helpful in engaging citizens and generating data, Heather Gilberds, the Director of Insights at VOTO Mobile shared their research findings related to platforms: “We have found that voice polls and surveys improve response rates by 10x compared to SMS surveys. We also found that using voice rather than SMS increases the participation of rural people and women in surveys and polls.”

Quincy Wiele’s Quakehelpdesk team has used in-person surveys to collect data. He writes: “Each month, teams of Quakehelpdesk Community Frontline Associates (CFAs) venture into devastated communities and conduct surveys with the inhabitants. Consisting of 10-15 questions, the surveys are randomly carried out (between elders/younger people, men/women, different castes) to ensure a wide cross section of data is gathered.” For their Follow the Money initiative, Quincy’s team builds relationships with government officials so that they are able to request the necessary data for analysis. They will soon be looking into budget monitoring practices.

For both the Quakehelpdesk and Follow the Money initiatives, the teams rely on mobile phones for data collection.

  • Quakehelpdesk teams use mobile phones equipped with the Kobo toolbox platform to carry out the surveys. “The data is aggregated and provided for analysis to a team who also collects the duration of each survey along with the GPS coordinates of where the surveys were carried out to ensure data authenticity.”
  • Follow the Money teams use mobile phones equipped with the Ushahidi platform allowing the teams to take pictures and fill out reports while they are at the construction sites. “This data will be relayed in real time to the central office in Kathmandu, where it will be analysed and provided to various government departments like the National Reconstruction Commission if irregularities are identified. Data will also be visualized on a virtual platform, allowing all stakeholders to track financial flows for themselves.”

Federico Ramírez also mentioned Open Data Kit, which is free software and has very low technical and financial barriers to enable mobile data collection.

Focus groups and scorecards

Balla Fall uses a combination of focus groups (of 10-15 people) and scorecards to collect information. He explains: “They can give their point about what an ideal service looks like. They define performances and compare them to the real situation. After that, they comment scores and give solutions to gaps identified.”

Hayley Capp shared some information on the work of CARE International on their experience using Community Scorecards and a proposed “six-step model for participatory monitoring of the SDGs that will ensure that people living in developing countries can play a significant role in determining the success or failure of the new Sustainable Development Goals.” The six steps are:

  1. Preparation and training of local facilitators and community agents
  2. Community validation of indicators and scoring
  3. Service providers score on these indicators
  4. Data gathering on service-delivery outcomes by the community
  5. Interface meetings between service providers, service users and public authorities
  6. Community agents corroborate findings and follow up on the action plan

Much more information on CARE’s work, lessons-learned, and six-step model can be found in this report from March 2015.

Utilizing existing data-collection institutions

Amitabh shared an idea of utilizing the work already being done by State Audit Institutions: these institutions can be a “major channel for gathering information citizens have or can give — to be checked against government information by the audit teams who will try to sift information/verify it etc as part of their work.” But he also cautions that: “State Audit offices must change the ways they do their work before they can serve as a useful channel for citizens’ information to be harnessed for SDGs.”

Incentives for engagement

Heather also shared their research findings related to incentives: “Our research has found that external incentives (i.e. mobile airtime or financial rewards) do little to incentivize citizen participation, but that appealing to civic virtues or shared community values is more successful.”

In Nepal, the idea of citizen-monitoring is very new so it is difficult to get people engaged. Quincy shares his recommendation on how to address this: “CGD is a new concept in places like Nepal and inevitably, it is seen with skepticism by both the public and authorities. Only with robust data can you begin to change this perception. It is therefore critical that the quality of the data is beyond question.”

Advocating for the inclusion of citizen-generated data into “official” data collection initiatives

It can be difficult to build trust with the local government if they perceive you as a ‘watchdog’, or simply as an initiative that is there to challenge official data and their approach. In these situations, a third-party ally of both institutions can potentially bridge the gap. As shared in this comment, Kimbowa Richard in Uganda was able to engage local government only after they were “prompted by the donor Government of Sweden”. He added: “By the end of the Project the relationship between our work and the LVEMPII project coordination was far better than it was at the start when there was an atmosphere of resentment and suspicion (who & why the watchdog?)”

Some participants also pointed out that in many countries, government officials struggle to understand the connection between citizen-generated data and official data collection because of a lack of training on data and methodology. Providing opportunities to officials for building their capacity on data, methodology, technology, and data management systems may be a good tactic for opening up new possibilities.

Sharing common indicators between organisations

How do we balance reporting that is useful for SDGs and reporting that is useful and realistic for communities?

Jeff Hall points out an important tension: “Surely communities cannot measure everything. So who gets to choose what to measure? On the one hand, If CSOs choose what to measure across a programme area, we risk undermining some of the fundamental principles of participatory monitoring that we want to advance. On the other hand, if each community measures whatever it wants, we lose the opportunity to aggregate data, since there will be no comparability or standardization among data sets.”

Similarly, Rob Worthington asks: “How can we break down organisational silos and connect data collected by different organisations”. He goes on to share two approaches:

  1. Create a shared data registry or directory. Organisations publish their data and put it somewhere accessible. The challenge here is that each data set will most likely be different across organisations so it is difficult to compare.
  2. Organisations working on similar interventions agreeing and sharing core data collection forms. “Instead of trying to standardise higher level data like indicators, this starts at the bottom by looking at the most basic data being collected.” Data can then be combined into a common database.

Examples of civil society groups collaboratively collecting data on indicators in order to make a policy change

Kristin Antin shared an example from the DataShift report “Changing what Counts” in which WaterAid works directly with civil society to identify the data points and to collect the data. “The data and maps that WaterAid championed were used to highlight gaps and inadequacies in official data collection practices around the provision of water at district level. This directly led to new forms of data collection, which were implemented in collaboration with public institutions, community groups and other actors.”

Other topics raised

One participant asked: “How can we really ensure that we are a key part in ensuring accountability from the very beginning of this process?”

Davis Adieno responded: “You therefore have to learn which agencies are developing the indicators in your country, what is being prioritised for implementation and when, and the processes to be used. As difficult as it may seem, you want to lobby those agencies to involve you in the process, or at the very least hold stakeholder engagement forums for feedback on their final list of national targets and indicators, and gather information on the roll out process. If this doesn’t work at the very least get hold of the final list and review it with peers and write memorandum with your feedback.”

Another question posed to the forum was: “What do civil society organisations need in order to effectively use citizen-generated data?”

If we want this to be successful, we need to improve our support for civil society organisations who are interested in citizen-generated data. Dosse highlights a few ideas:

  1. Citizen must have big data training with new technology opportunities.
  2. Data collection expertise (e.g. marginalised groups, income, age, health, widows, etc)
  3. Population involvement: it means that population must be educated to SDGs advantages and the importance of data collection.
  4. Political support and open government partnership
  5. CSO data collection finance
  6. Data innovation
  7. Citizen Network can help achieving this quickly.