We evaluated an innovative project that provides open data on the quality of public services to strengthen citizen advocacy and government accountability
I Am Aware is a social accountability project implemented by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and funded by the Hewlett Foundation, aiming to empower citizens by providing accessible information on the state of public goods and services, to strengthen the accountability.
CDD-Ghana collects and archives government data on service delivery at district level, which is accessible online (Iamawareghana.com). Information products are created to make the data more accessible and useful. For example, a District League Table ranks all districts in Ghana on the quality of key services, and the website has apps that enable users to compare district service quality. A Free text message platform has also been set up, for citizens to request data to be sent to their phones.
We undertook a formative evaluation of this work, at the end of Phase 2 in 2018. Working together with Participatory Development Associates Ghana, we assessed the intermediate outcomes and identified success factors and challenges. Our results influences the design of next phase of the project and contributed knowledge to the wider transparency and accountability community.
The I Am Aware concept grew out of CDD-Ghana’s wider work, such as the Afrobarometer surveys. This indicated that a key constraint for social accountability is citizens’ weak access to information, alongside a limited sense of citizen efficacy.
The project aims to provide citizens with accessible information about the quality of local goods and services, and to support civil society capacity to use the evidence for advocacy. The project thus responds to the growing global call for open data to be made more relevant, accessible, and useful for citizens.
The evaluation took a theory-based approach, along a qualitative-participatory method, to analyse the process of change, assumptions, and the success factors and challenges. The evaluation explored issues such as:
- the challenges of accessing government data and translating it into accessible information
- what kinds of information is relevant to different citizens
- what channels and formats for sharing information were most accessible and useful to whom
- how citizens used the data
- whether and how this made a difference to government responsiveness
We conducted interviews and focus group discussions with a wide set of stakeholders in four sampled districts and at national level. Within this, we facilitated practical tests of the information channels (text message platform, website, radio clips, and posters) with citizens and civil society. These assessed the accessibility of the data and information channels, to differently positioned citizens. We also used a participatory tool to analyse the relevance of the data to different citizens.
Outcomes and wider impacts
The evaluation has informed the design of the next phase of I Am Aware project, and we supported CDD-Ghana to strengthen its internal monitoring framework. The evaluation findings are being presented in stakeholder meetings across Ghanaian regions to support civil society mobilisation and strategies. Additionally, the evaluation contributes knowledge to the wider international community of practitioners and funders, and strengthens the limited existing analysis of what makes open data relevant, accessible, and useful for citizens.