M-Governance Exploratory Survey

After a comprehensive literature review and an informative workshop conducted last month (October 2011), the iHub Research team ventured into the field to find out whether wananchi’s (Swahili for citizens) reality on the ground matched the theory and rhetoric. The team conducted a brief exploratory survey from November 1st – 4th, 2011. The survey was conducted to better understand Nairobi citizens’ point of view on governance in Kenya and to have a clearer picture of avenues of service delivery and government-citizen interactions that are currently occurring. This initial information will help to formulate the indicators to be studied as part of the larger M-Governance field research that is scheduled to begin January 2012.

Four locations in Nairobi were chosen for the exploratory survey based on factors such as sampling variety, ease of access, and targeted respondents: the Bishop Magua Building, the Central Business District (CBD), the Kibera slum and the University of Nairobi main campus. Two members of the team visited the sites on each of the four days with a minimum target of 15 respondents per location. The brief questionnaire contained seven open-ended questions on perceptions of governance and service delivery as well as existing and preferred channels of communication between the government and citizens. One interesting feature of the survey was that the team piloted Open Data Kit (ODK) mobile data collection software. ODK allowed the field researchers to input the questionnaire responses while in the field using a mobile phone running on Android. As soon as the phones were on Internet, the field team was then able to send the data back to a cloud server, which is accessible in real time from the office using a laptop computer. Therefore, researchers in the office were able to begin seeing and analyzing the results while the field team sent the data from various locations around Nairobi!

A major obstacle encountered was unwillingness to be interviewed, seen in all locations, but especially in the CBD. The unwillingness to give consent to be interviewed might be attributed to mistrust of strangers and fear of reprisals on talking ill about the government. This mistrust had been anticipated by the team, who, in order to counter it, worked hard to establish a rapport with interviewees and make it clear that anonymity was guaranteed. Another challenge was language translation, with most of the interviews having to be carried out in Kiswahili although questionnaires were originally written in English. Some terms in English, such as governance, are difficult to accurately translate without losing the original or intended English meaning. This challenge revealed the fact that “governance” as we know it does not exist in the culture and lingo of most Kenyan people. The closest Swahili word to “governance,” is more closely translated to “rule”, “leadership”, or “government.” Thus, there is a need to continue to develop creative instruments to highlight what “governance” means to Ken

From the brief four-day exploration, the team managed to gather the ideas of over 60 “Nairobians” on governance matters. The insights from the exploratory survey will facilitate the construction of a more “customized” and “Kenyan” framework within which to conduct the wider field research. The data is currently under analysis and additional insights will be published here as soon as analysis is complete.