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Population and Housing Census

Policymakers must be involved early in census preparations

Data production is an expensive affair and as such, there must be return on investment (ROI) by way of quality and usable data. Kenya is notorious for doing meticulous data production and sometimes policies that are then left languishing on shelves.In a data driven world, where evidence based policy making is the gold standard to transformative decision-making, data is king.

Policymakers must be involved early in census preparations

On involving data users such as policymakers, experience has it that data is more impactful when decision-makers are included in the data production process from the beginning. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Next year, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), – an agency in the Ministry of State for Planning mandated with among others things the collection, compilation, analysis, publication and dissemination of statistical information for public use will be conducting the Kenya Population and Housing Census, at a reported cost of Sh18.5 billion. Data production is an expensive affair and as such, there must be return on investment (ROI) by way of quality and usable data. Kenya is notorious for doing meticulous data production and sometimes policies that are then left languishing on shelves.In a data driven world, where evidence based policy making is the gold standard to transformative decision-making, data is king. We have however witnessed, especially the in last five years, a trend where policymakers reject statistics, facts and science and end up acting on their own false information; to make it worse, they’ve made policies based on the same to the detriment of the country.This could be blamed on state capture by interest money, procurement driven policymaking and outright ignorance on the part of the ruling class; but KNBS as the supervisor of the National Statistical System (NSS) also bears some level of blame specifically for not involving data users such as policymakers, civil society and private sector in data collection and doing a bad job at data communication.On involving data users such as policymakers, experience has it that data is more impactful when decision-makers are included in the data production process from the beginning.As at the time of writing this, KNBS has commenced preparations for next year’s census including commissioning a pilot phase, there is little evidence that there is a framework to engage decision makers and users of data from the exercise such as county governments, parliament and others yet the data from this exercise will be the basis of national planning for next ten years – shaping policies and legislation, informing programme decisions, and targeting resources.Difficult as it is to involve policymakers in data production process, this group must have a seat at the data collection table from the onset. This doesn’t just align data collectors and data users but also guarantees impact in the long term.On data communication; it must be said that they labour in vain them that produce data if it is neither used nor questioned. Without effective data communication to the intended users, the work thereof ends up on shelves.One approach to effective data communication is enhancing data literacy amongst data consumers. Besides the technical work of disaggregating data beyond total figures to enable better detail and insight, KNBS must up its dissemination strategy to ensure that the data from next year’s census is palatable, meaningful and relevant to people by addressing their concerns.One hopes that to this end, KNBS will employ new and innovative ways to produce and present data. As KNBS prepares for the 2019 Population and Housing Census, the agency needs to strengthen the two steps highlighted herein to enhance its data value chain process — from collection, publication, uptake, and eventually impact.

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