What you need to know:
- Foremost, benchmarking is an essential part of making and implementing policy.
- When followed through to the end, it has a measurably high impact on citizens.
Benchmarking is an infamous Kenyan process and conversation, usually associated with globe-trotting politicians and skyrocketing costs to the taxpayer. Kenyans mostly hear about it when there has been a scandal, yet there are several far more constructive conversations that we should be having.
Foremost, benchmarking is an essential part of making and implementing policy. When followed through to the end, it has a measurably high impact on citizens.
Further, in understanding benchmarking as research and study, it is clear why a lot more inquiry in different fields, whether they be public, private or collaborative, should be publicly funded so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of innovative approaches. The search for the Covid-19 vaccine, for instance, was largely funded by taxpayers from all over the world.
Officials from the Legislature, Judiciary and Executive, at both county and national levels, have gone on trips for decades to compare one county to another or Kenya to other countries. The point of these benchmarks is for us to see how particular things could be done better. This information is not used for national intelligence or defence, and as such would not need to be hidden for any reason.
Shift public discourse
For instance, Kenya is a country with millions of road users, many of whom use bicycles and motorcycles. This demographic tragically tends towards a higher accident rate than others. In countries where these accident rates have gone down, what measures have been implemented? How can these or similar measures come into practice here, so that we can begin to see fewer accidents due to factors beyond the control of the road users themselves?
Recent tensions about the Competency-Based Curriculum in Kenya, as another example, would’ve been much easier to explain to parents without a black-box approach to the information that led to its implementation. This data needed to have been shared appropriately with Kenyans.
People would be greatly interested in what the emerging priority areas are in these rapidly changing times. People are also interested in what can open up new income-earning paths for them and their children. The public would very likely have been far more receptive to these curriculum changes had they been well explained, and could even have played a more active role in helping to implement them.
It would greatly shift public discourse if Kenyans had access to the new knowledge and findings that are then used to make decisions on their behalf. Public officials, sector experts and the media can and should play a big role in ensuring this data and analysis take a central place in public discourse and conversation. This would also help to diffuse hyper politicised airwaves and centralise the conversations around national development that are so sorely needed for our collective good.
The writer is a policy analyst. [email protected]