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From Visions To Action: The Framing Of Inclusive Digital Governance In Kenya Through Open Government

Irene MwendwaandBobina Zulfa|

As we prepare to celebrate
#OpenGovWeek from May 27 to 31, 2024, we must recognise the progress made by several member countries in digital governance. Kenya is marking the occasion this year by including a digital governance commitment as a key priority area in its latest OGP action plan. In Kenya, inclusive digital governance is essential for promoting government transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement. With technology advancing rapidly, ensuring everyone has equal access to digital services and opportunities is crucial. Closing the digital divide is essential to ensure no one is left behind, especially vulnerable groups.

Pollicy, a feminist civic technology collective, is conducting action research in collaboration with OGP and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to improve gender data integration in digital governance ecosystems. By leveraging their expertise in gender, data, and technology, Pollicy aims to develop models for cross-regional learning and peer exchange between OGP members, starting with Kenya. Through evidence gathering, active engagement with other OGP members, and the development of feminist perspectives on digital governance, this project will culminate in creating a toolkit designed to guide reformers in integrating gender data into their digital governance work and promoting gender-inclusive open government commitments.

One of the main policy problems identified under the digital governance commitment is citizens’ inequitable access to digital opportunities and services and the lack of employment of gender data to drive positive change. A policy approach that lacks a strong focus on inclusion and limited capacities in understanding and implementing digital technologies hinders progress in addressing the digital divide. A collaborative approach involving government actors, civil society organisations, the private sector, and other stakeholders is essential to tackle these challenges.

The project will employ the three research strategies to empower reformers to create a more inclusive and transparent digital governance ecosystem: 

Mapping the landscape for inclusive digital governance through collaboration. Pollicy and OGP intend to document the state of play regarding inclusive digital governance and algorithmic transparency in Kenya, showing gaps and opportunities. Ultimately, through collaboration, they will put forward recommendations towards achieving this commitment, particularly through the development of a standard toolkit meant to guide reformers working on digital governance with gender data integration. Following the development of the toolkit, training and peer-to-peer exchanges will be conducted as validation and knowledge-sharing points of the toolkit as it gets rolled out.

Creating models for cross-regional learning and peer exchange between OGP members, starting with Kenya, this work shall be co-created and disseminated specifically through a standardised toolkit meant to guide in an actionable way with improved gender data collection and integration in OGP members. 

Unveiling digital governance disparities. With the project’s focus on digital governance and algorithmic transparency and accountability, Pollicy brings its proficiency from years of researching the intersection of gender, data and technology using an inclusion lens. Based on the findings, the study Pollicy introduces six pillars of inclusive data governance:

  1. Contextual understanding of data ecosystems: Adopt a holistic view of data ecosystems accounting for diverse actors, networks, and flows of data tailored to the African context.
  2. Ethical and inclusive data practices: Ensure ethical data practices, including informed consent, privacy preservation, and inclusivity of marginalised populations.
  3. Addressing power asymmetry: Recognize and counteract power imbalances in data ecosystems caused by colonial legacies, neocolonialism, and unequal resource distributions.
  4. Building capacity and literacy: Develop data literacy programs targeting various stakeholders, including policymakers, civil society organisations, and the public.
  5. Encouraging participatory governance: Foster social dialogues, enabling diverse stakeholders to engage in data governance decisions.
  6. Strengthening institutional frameworks: Implement comprehensive data protection regulations and strengthen enforcement mechanisms to promote accountability and transparency.

Specifically for this project, it brings into focus through intersectionality the diversities of marginalised groups, including women, as societies increasingly move into the digital realms, thereby making visible how this realm contributes to maintaining and, in some cases, worsening the status quo on issues such as work, education, digital connectivity, public health and more. 

Thereby, through evidence gathering and active engagement of the OGP select members for this project, co-creation to develop possible feminist perspectives to guide government reformers in applying these intersectional perspectives in their digital governance work is envisioned. Gender data is essential to realising gender-inclusive open government commitments, especially related to digital governance. 

Inclusive digital governance is essential for promoting transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement in Kenya. By addressing the digital divide, improving access to digital services, and integrating gender data into decision-making processes, the country can create a more equitable and inclusive digital ecosystem for all its citizens.

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