A couple of weeks ago, I watched the movie ‘Wikileaks – We Steal Secrets’ and this gave me a whole new perspective on how Wikileaks happened, its effects plus a whole new understanding and appreciation of whistle blowers like Julian Asange, Bradly Manning etc. When do you release information, when do you not?
One thing I have also come to appreciate over the past year especially during my time working in government, is how little people out of government think that people in government are not just like them, sometimes with the same thought processes, consequences and priorities. A few weeks ago I was giving a talk in a panel discussion and one of the panelists from Civil Society told a story of how they had come across some controversial data on politicians and their electorate but that they did not wanna release it, they wanted to wait till no one was looking so that it would not create any attention to them. How does Civil Society and other private organizations expect governments to release information while they themselves refuse to make their data public?
While working on the Kenya Open Data project, many a times I was faced by these kinds of people but now within government who did not want to release information because in their definition, it would be ‘controversial’. But I kept pushing anyway and in my success cases, I often had to convince them that the data was more useful in the public than it was out of it, secretly withheld.
The government collects a lot of data about its citizens, whether they admit to it or not, whether you are aware of that or not. Not just the Kenyan government but a lot of governments in general out there with the most popular program being the NSA’s PRISM that was whistle blown by Edward Snowden.
The government of Kenya openly admitted last year through the Communications Commission of Kenyta (CCK) that it would start doing a lot more surveillance on communication by the Kenyan people. Everyone was/is understandably outraged by this idea of having a government body pry into people’s private conversations to try and pick up what would be seen as security information to help manage insecurity better.
In the wake of the Westgate attacks, you would hope that the government then would have more information, as a matter of fact, people were/are more outraged that the government did not have the relevant data needed to stop the crimes before they happen and that even after, expecting that they would have a certain file log to look into is still a wild goose chase.
This all brings me to the questions, are we mad that the government collects our information (your location notwithstanding)? Are we mad that they have the information and they never used it in the right way – to curb insecurity? Or, are we mad that the government got caught snooping? Are we better off oblivious of the fact that the government really does monitor your communication?
When we are still talking about opposing the government’s data collection/surveillance plan, how do we expect the governments to have intelligence over what is going on, who/where/when is a potential threat etc? Is there a way, are there laws that can pick out who to look into because they are guilty and who not to because they are definitely innocent?
How would we expect the government to give us information that in their definition is ‘private and critical for the running of the country’ while at the same time deny them information that we think is ‘private and critical’ to our personal life? What is the incentive here? How would you like the government to collect the information from you? Openly or privately?
Well friends, to these and many other questions that keep me up at night, I do not have an answer but please feel free to share your comments and ideas.
The cost of doctors flight from Kenya
The emergency physician at Howard University Hospital, Canada, yearns to resettle in Kenya but he fears that he could end up suffering from depression from watching his patients die from easily treatable diseases because of lack of equipment.
As a student at Starehe Boys Centre and School Dr Charles Wambulwa was delighted when he learnt that his school, through its career development programme, had found him an attachment as a volunteer at Kenyatta National Hospital.
“At the end of my holiday attachment I changed my mind after witnessing patients not being attended to for what the doctor mentoring me said was lack of equipment to treat them,” he recalls.
The worst experience he witnessed involved a patient in his 40s who lay on the floor for three days dehydrated. “When I asked why he did not have a bed, the doctor I was attached to explained that the hospital did not have enough beds for all patients. Seeing patients suffer needlessly made me swear I will never be a doctor,” he says.
But destiny came calling years later after he moved to the United States and completed a degree in Liberal Arts. He enrolled at Howard University College of Medicine.
Today, for the Emergency physician, service to his motherland is consigned to volunteering for a month every year at public hospitals in Kenya. He says the facilities have improved little since his high school days. “In 2008 I worked at Moi Technical Referral Hospital where babies share beds, this is unacceptable in health, worse still in a referral facility. When you bring your baby to the hospital, he or she is treated for what they came with but they leave with another disease,” Dr Wambulwa says. “This is very demoralizing for a doctor who has to work in the same condition every day.”
The doctor who has also volunteered at KNH, Kitale General Hospital and Kakamega Provincial General Hospital says until the working environment changes he would not return home permanently.
He says Kakamega Provincial General Hospital, which he volunteered at last year, is the filthiest hospital he has ever seen. He wonders how a doctor for so long can work in such an environment knowing that the patients you are treating are predisposed to hygiene related ailments. “I think you can only take it for so long.”
“I feel a bit spoiled that I have what I need to treat my patients with, some of my former classmates who are doctors now tell me it is a tough daily routine,” says Wambulwa, as he recalls an incident when a woman who was bleeding profusely after a car accident was brought into Webuye District Hospital, while he was on duty,but had to be transferred to Kakamenga because of lack of basic facilities .
This year’s World Food Day is World Food day is well covered on print by The East African which published inforgraphics on the latest Food and Agriculture Organization(FOA) stats of the number of hungry people world over.
Using bubble charts, to represent the proportion of people affected by hunger, Asia and the pacific has the largest share of hungry people followed sub-Sahara Africa, then Latin America and the Caribbean.
Further the visuals show the number of underweight children in developing world. With a pictogram, simplified percentages show that 1 out of 6 children- roughly 100 million children in developing countries are underweight. 1 out of 4 of the world’s children is stunted. With a pie chart, the story shows that 80 percent of the stunted children live in only 20 countries.
Further visualization helps to break down the data and relate it with education showing that 66 million primary school age children attend classes hungry across the world half of this number are children from developing countries affecting their performance.
With a world map, pie charts and pictograms, FOA tells world food insecurity story in half a page of this year’s October 12-18 EastAfrican. click here for the link.
Early sex doubles HIV risk
Data review shows that the risk of getting HIV doubles for girls who start having sex before their 16th birthday compared to those start sex at age 16 or later.
The prevalence of HIV among girls who have their first sexual encounter before their 16th birthday is 14.4 per cent while for girls whose sexual debut is between age 16-17 it is seven per cent. The health survey findings suggest that delaying sexual activity to 20 years and above, seven percent of girls who would have otherwise contracted HIV will be HIV free .
Interestingly, while the risk of contracting HIV is higher in girls, for boys the opposite is true.
Now this is going to sound like a rant but this I promise is a data-based argument. Really, it is!
There are two things I have failed to understand completely in the system of how things work in the Nairobi transport sector. The traffic lights and the parking machines.
The government has invested a lot of money in digital traffic lights that you would expect everyone would follow, which would ease traffic and most importantly do away with the traffic cops who more often create the chaos as much as not allowing drivers to reason and make decisions. It’s been months. Still, even after this heavy investment, roundabouts and controlled junctions are still controlled by traffic cops. Unnecessarily!
The question here is, are we really so incapable of following rules and instructions that we must have people employed, in addition to the heavy technology investment or are we overlooking the fact that we are beings capable of following rules for the sake of job creation?
Can the cops at traffic points be assigned to more uncontrolled spaces or highways?
If you have parked a car at the mall or some of those other popular spots in Nairobi, you have most likely seen the Kaps parking fee machines.
Now, how I know these machines should work is, you insert your parking ticket, the amount is displayed on the screen, you insert the money, if exact, get your ticket and receipt else, get change, ticket and receipt.
Contrary to popular belief, these machines are more manual than they are automatic or digitized. You always need an attendant with you!
The parking machines:
- Do not take new notes or coins.
- Do not dispense change.
You need a parking attendant for that. Since no one is ever sure about how new or old their notes or coins are, there are usually long queues all dependent on one attendant to help give change or use old coins and notes. This has caused the inefficiency of having to wait or walk further to get this service. Is this really necessary?
Don’t get me wrong reader, I am not against job creation, in the contrary, I am in the process of creating jobs but what I am so against is, must we create jobs at the expense of our investments in innovation or invest in innovation at the expense of job creation?
I feel that we have to pick one to avoid all the wastage around (time, money, people, spaces) for a better Kenya.
By Trudy Mbaluku
Comprising the fight against malaria are factors such as poor knowledge of the disease, lack of diagnostic equipment in health facilities and a low uptake of preventive measures such as sleeping under insecticide treated nets and taking antimalaria drugs during pregnancy.
Last year about 27,000 Kenyans died from malaria in public health facilities according to Kenya Health Information System (KHIS). Epidemiologist Manya Ayubu says this figure is higher because the system only captures data from public facilities.
Over the last 10 years, Kenya has made progress in malaria control. However, the country is still far from defeating the disease.
Dr Njagi Kiambo, from the Ministry of Health Division of Malaria Control, says the deaths would be avoided if patients sought treatment at the earliest opportunity. He says Government policy requires that health facilities conduct blood tests.
But even for those people who go to health facilities because they are experiencing malaria symptoms most do not have their diagnosis confirmed through a blood test. Data from the Health Information Management System reveals that only one out of four patients treated for malaria had the diagnosis confirmed by a blood test. This means that of the nine million patients who were diagnosed with malaria in public facilities last year, only 2.4 million had their diagnosis confirmed through blood smear tests. The rest were treated based on clinical diagnosis.
“Testing for malaria would save the country a lot of money because malaria drugs would be given to only patients with malaria,” Dr Kiambo. Some of the symptoms of malaria are similar to those of other diseases like typhoid “If malaria is diagnosed early, it can be treated at outpatient level, but people tend to seek treatment when it is already severe malaria which can result to lose of lives,” says Dr Kiambo.
Malaria testing is done by taking blood where by the presence of the malaria causing parasite is confirmed in a laboratory or using a Rapid Diagnostic Kit (RDTs).
However, the latest Kenya Service Provision Assessment report shows that many health facilities, both public and private, have no capacity to conduct blood smear tests for malaria. According to the report , the worst affected are dispensaries with two out of three dispensaries having no capacity to diagnose malaria by blood smear tests while one out of 50 do not have rapid test kits. The situation is only marginally better in clinics with only one in two having capacity to diagnose malaria by blood smear tests while one in 14 do not have rapid test kits. Even in big hospitals one in 12 facilities do not have the capacity to perform a blood smear test and only one in five have rapid test kits.
Dr Kiambo says the situation will improve as the Government is in the process of distributing seven million rapid test kits to public and faith based health facilities to increase malaria testing. The kits are enough for the next five years.
This is in an effort to operationalise the new Government policy which states that, every patient suspected to have malaria should be tested. He says that malaria can only be outsmarted by a combination of factors.
Pregnant women and children under five are more vulnerable to malaria. Malaria infection during pregnancy may lead to miscarriage, still births or low birth weight or the death of the mother, states Kenya Malaria Indicator Survey 2010 .
Mr Jeckonia Onyango hope for healthy first born were shattered after his wife suffered malaria in pregnancy which affected their unborn child. She had undergone preventive intermittent treatment for malaria, which is usually recommended for pregnant women especially those in malaria endemic zones like Nyanza, where the couple lived.
“The doctor said my wife had malaria when she was pregnant with him,” says Mr Onyango holding his son Nicholas’ head firmly in place so that he may not knock is head on the chair. The five-year-old was born premature and now has spinal bifida, a developmental congenital disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the embryonic neural tube.
Dr Lucas Otieno, a Research Officer with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), explains that when malaria attacks a pregnant mother, the parasites hide in the placenta and destroy the organs around the placenta. “This interferes with oxygen and nutrient supply to the unborn foetus which both are necessary for proper development of the unborn baby.”
Dr Otieno says women who suffer malaria in pregnancy are also likely to develop anaemia. “When one is anaemic, the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood is reduced. Therefore the oxygen transmitted to the foetus is reduced as well. This can lead to intra-uterine retardation which may trigger pre-term labour and delivery,” says the research Officer who is also involved with a malaria vaccine research.
A pre-term baby is not mature enough to breathe on its own, a condition known as respiratory distress. This may cause brain damage and therefore delayed milestones in the baby’s development. The risk is higher with the first pregnancy (like in the case Nicholas’ mother) says Dr Otieno.
One in four maternities have no capacity to do a blood spear test, and only one in six have rapid malaria tests according to the Service Provision Assessment 2010.
By Trudy Mbaluku
Telling stories with data without using technical language is a hard acquired skill. The Telegraphy explores income security, health status and an enabling environment for old people around the world. using several data sets from Global Index Report 2013 it emerges that the happiest place to grow old is Sweden followed by Norway and Germany with Britain trailing at the 13th place. The Worst Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Second last place.
How does the data strengthen the story?
The story, titled happiest country to be old is Sweden, Survey finds out brings out patient issues about social policies, pension schemes, Income Security, health status and an enabling environment in the 91 countries ranked in the report without bombarding the reader with too many figures.
With data analysis the writer shows that despite UK being richer than Germany, ageing Britons are better off spending their later years in Germany than in their country. With data still, it emerged that money or gross Domestic Product per capita isn’t everything when it comes to the wellbeing of the elderly in the G20 economies. For instance Despite Britain’s universal pension and an enabling environment, its ranking was lower to Scandinavia’s due to shortage of buses and trains accessible to the elderly.
Further, HelpAge International who designed the Global Age Index has done a good service to this year’s Age Index by visualizing in different heat maps on a dashboard on their online platform. For the visuals click here
What makes these visualizations effective?
This makes the reader to interacted with the data in a variety of visuals, heat maps, bar graphs, cluster maps and interactive colour scale maps.
Perhaps investigative journalists in kenya can borrow a leaf and turn to data to unearth stories hidden in data.
How can this story be adapted to the?
Aging and retirement planning is vital for Kenya to care for its elderly population. similar data sets could be mined to inform how East Africa compares in taking care of their elderly.
A few days ago, while doing my homework for a talk i was scheduled to give at the Hay Festival, I came across the lack of information on how much software developers in the ‘Silicon Savanna’ earn. The survey is available HERE and is still open to responses. I made an assumption that this is monthly income and that it is gross salary.
The raw data from the 19 responses is available HERE and below is an analysis of the responses. Please be sure to leave a comment or fill out the survey if you haven’t already.
Income According to level of education:
According to developer’s major in school:
% responses according to major in school:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future
The one thing we have truly missed on in government and organizations is the ability to really work together. For various departments or government ministries to be able to create structures that can seamlessly interlink with others, in the future, without much red tape or structural difficulties.
Linked data is just that. Linked data. This concept allows for structured data concepts to be interrelated and used with little or no barriers.
A simple example like a ministry of health accessing information from the ministry of education to know how many kids there are in schools, linking the ministry of information to know what the best way for a communication campaign is to let parents and schools know that there is going to be an immunization campaign is a classic example of how having good information that can be connected can go a long way. But then again, this a very simple example but one that might surprisingly not be a true implementation due to organizational barriers.
A great real case problem was when the Kenya Power and Lighting company had great issues with the ministry of roads as they had not shared with them or at least did not have information in more accessible formats and maybe were not able to work together to know the road expansion plans. This ended up affecting KPLC who had already installed electricity poles on roads that were later marked for expansion and the internet providing companies that had piggy backed on electricity poles for their cable distribution. As a development hazard, some citizens ended up with no electricity, no internet and very dusty roads. Now what if these stakeholders had implemented dots that could connect backwards?
My recommendations to achieve linked data:
Standardization of services.
Common data formats for collection and distribution.
Joint Committees that involve all the possible involved stakeholders and allowance for new entrants.
Bigger picture for development and data. It is not just about your organization.
Accessibility – now it doesn’t make sense to implement all of the above if the data involved is not accessible to anyone.
There definitely are more ways to achieve this goal without the need for any constitutional changes. There needs to be a culture change that allows people to think out of their organizations during project implementation, data collection and distribution.
“My people perish from a lack of knowledge” ~ Hosea 4:6
Today, Hosea would be disappointed that people have knowledge but lack the ability to use it.
There is talk all over the world about the next frontier in technology and business. Big data. Big companies in the west have started to sign up clients that have data, helping them analyze the data, use it for predictive modeling and productivity.
Governments have not been left behind. With the rise of the Open Data movement around the world, there are great expectations for improved decision making within government, and as a ripple effect, affecting how private sector interacts with government and does business.
This is all already happening, in the west.
With this rise of using data, Data Science is becoming inevitable. We have seen an emergence in data scientists, by training or experience but it’s all not really hard to figure out. A little dedication to the subject goes a long way.
In Africa, data has been defined as the new oil! Data is becoming such a valuable crude resource. The good news is that everyone is a potential stakeholder. In fact, everyone has something to bring to the table. The better news is, most of this valuable resource is available, for free. It might not be within the bounds of ‘big data’ but I am sure even the existing ‘small data’ can truly be transformational.
We are seeing initiatives like the Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI), the Africa Development Bank data site and many other initiatives through the World Bank and other key industry players that are releasing data with major indicators of where to do business, what market segments to target, what products to work on, what the growth rates are etc. Putting information like this together can easily draw a picture of the expected profits. It might not be very obvious, identifying trends within data takes a lot of intelligence and creativity but it can be done.
Growth of entrepreneurship around the world and with a massive exodus of international entrepreneurs to Africa, the new competitive edge for an industry player is the quality of data that runs their business, whether from internal or external sources. The best move for a lot of the starters would be to invest in people who are dedicated to gathering this information and using it to carry out business intelligence. People or an algorithm is a good question. What should be invested in? Remember, an algorithm without a clear mind that feeds it key indicators might give the correct answer but not necessarily the right one. The people are key!
Demographic data gives deeper understanding to information on populations and can easily be harnessed to help entrepreneurs understand their market or what products would be best suited for them to invest in.
The unfortunate bit is that we have our entrepreneurs focusing on producing products or giving services without as much as a little research into the subject matter to find out if the time and money investments they are undertaking are suited for the markets they are targeting. Some do not do any form of literature review or customer analysis to see if any of their proposed solution would work within the existing environment or with existing technologies.
The reason Hosea would be more disappointed is the fact that this information exists in some form out in the web and in reports but local entrepreneurs have not made it any of their work to use it.
This post is not at all to say that all the information needed to elevate startups exists and that they are just being lazy. Or to be oblivious of the fact that some entrepreneurs are already using data to make their businesses better. In fact, that is very far from the truth. Some of the information that is necessary to help steer things is either outdated or non-existent all together. Some information on donor funding, profit margins, growth trajectories etc. that can be very vital in informing businesses might either be considered confidential or might also not exist. Some entrepreneurs have already seen the value of using data within businesses and are already out investing in this to help their businesses grow.
My recommendation moving forward is for entrepreneurs to not only use data in their day to day decision making but for them to also develop a culture of data sharing, at acceptable levels to allow others benefit and build their businesses.
This post was a guest editorial for iHub Research for their quarterly edition. Please visit
http://www.ihub.co.ke/blog/ for more.