Exploring the use of open data to support citizen-led initiatives for sustainable urban development in East Africa

Roza, Vasileva (2022) Exploring the use of open data to support citizen-led initiatives for sustainable urban development in East Africa. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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In the last two decades, both the academic realm and urban governance practice have seen a rising interest in smart cities and open data to aid sustainable urban development and citizen engagement. However, little is currently known about data-driven citizen-centric practices ‘on the ground’. Research to date has been scarce and focused primarily on the experience in countries of the ‘Global North’. Therefore, the knowledge gap this work aimed to bridge was to develop an understanding of how open data are used to support citizen-led initiatives that address sustainable development in cities in the ‘Global South’.

The research employed an inductive exploratory approach using qualitative research methods to examine case studies in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Nairobi (Kenya). The case studies were focused on how city governments and other stakeholders engage with communities dealing with sustainability challenges, and how data can support this. Expert interviews, 25 in Dar es Salaam and 25 in Nairobi, were conducted with representatives of national and local government, international and local experts in open data and urban data innovations, leaders in non-profit organisations, private sector companies and start-ups, international development organisations, local community initiatives and academia. These were followed by direct observations of four community projects (Ramani Huria and Nipe Fagio in Dar es Salaam, and Map Kibera and sensors.AFRICA in Nairobi), and focus groups with project participants. By taking a ground-level perspective on how data are generated, circulated, accessed and leveraged by stakeholders, the author has drawn conclusions on how cities adopted and supported ‘citizen- centric’ practices to address specific urban challenges, such as solid waste management, air pollution, flooding, and access to public services.

Overall, the nature of data-driven community initiatives in these cities was found to be different to the cities in the Global North. They were shaped by the way people traditionally participate in decision making and how they were initiated and resourced. Due to the prevalence of international donor funding in these countries, project agendas and their sustainability depended strongly on the continuation of donor programmes. Also, the history, local governance and motivation for community engagement played a considerable role in shaping these activities. Findings suggest that using data for citizen engagement in urban challenges in East Africa, and the design of urban sustainability interventions, should take into consideration these contextual differences. Addressing such specificities simply as ‘barriers’ or ‘gaps’ to achievement, rather than as practically and symbolically significant local practices integral to existing community governance, risks failing to account for their importance, at the cost of the deliverability of data- driven project goals.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Rodrigues, Lucelia
Goulden, Murray
Greenhalgh, Chris
Keywords: Open data, community initiatives, Global South, East Africa, smart city, sustainable urban development
Subjects: H Social sciences > HC Economic history and conditions
H Social sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Built Environment
Item ID: 67631
Depositing User: Vasileva, Roza
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2022 04:40
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2022 04:40
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/67631

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