Baseline Statistics – informing practice

By Professor Hannah Thinyane: Co-Director

Over a month has passed since we undertook our baseline study, which has given us enough time to start analyzing the way that citizens in Makana Municipality are using technology to  participate in, or at least communicating with, local government.

This post is going to try to toe the line between giving enough detail to be accurate about how we calculated the data, whilst not sounding like a statistics text book.

If you participated in our baseline evaluation, you would know that we asked a number of questions about what media you access, and how frequently you access these media.

For example, we asked about how often you watch TV, listen to radio, and read newspapers. We also asked what ‘new media’ you accessed such as WhatsApp, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Skype and Grahamstown Outoilet. We used the answers to these questions to create two indexes, to show how many different sources of information people access.

So for example, if a person said they read newspapers and magazines, watch TV, but don’t listen to the radio, we would calculate that they access 3 of the 4 sources.

If they said they only watch TV, then we would calculate that they access 1 of the 4 sources. When we consider this index itself and compare responses across the different wards of Makana, we see there is a (statistically) significant difference in how many different sources of information citizens access.

It makes sense to see this, and it’s a finding that we would expect – this means for example that the average person who lives in Hill 60 for example, accesses more traditional sources of information than the average person living in Riebeck East. We can break this down even further and look within each of the different wards to see how people of different ages, different genders, and different races access information.

My guess is that some readers are asking why we care how people are currently using media. Let me tell you. A large part of MobiSAM is what we call citizen education – helping citizens to understand their rights to services, and informing them of ways to participate and engage with local government.

If we can see from our statistics that people in Ward 14 do not use any ‘new media’, then we would tailor our information packages to use sources of information that they do use instead. If our data shows that the primary way that citizens in Ward 2 contribute their views on public matters is to attend policy forums, then we would organize public forums within the ward to distribute information.

As such the data gathered by our team of community based data collectors has been and will continue to shape and inform the way in which MobiSAM structures it’s approach to citizen education as well as the overall communications strategy which will be required to reach all constituents of Makana on time and with the correct information via the most suitable platform.

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