Supporting Local Government for informed decision making – insights from LG Data Fellowship Program

Open Knowledge Nepal

Open Knowledge Nepal


Mon Jul 17 2023

Data has become a powerful tool for decision-making and governance. Recognizing the importance of leveraging data for effective municipal management, Open Knowledge Nepal initiated the “Local Government (LG) Data Fellowship” program. The primary objective of the fellowship was to assist municipal bodies in digitizing their data and utilizing it for informed decision-making. As part of this program, fellows worked closely with various personnel in municipalities to administer and operationalize the Integrated Data Management System (IDMS).

Integrated Data Management System (IDMS) is a system that brings the data generated by the various departments and systems of the municipal office to the central hub. The system is used to effectively share the data between the department and to make the potential data available to the general public. IDMS was implemented in three municipalities: Tulsipur Sub-Metropolitan City, Birgunj Metropolitan City, and Lekbeshi Municipality.

In collaboration with the municipality, the OKN team identified three qualified fellows for the implementing municipality from a pool of 25 applicants who responded to the LG Data Fellowship Call. Ganga Kandel, a forestry graduate, was placed in Tulsipur Sub-Metropolitan City. Suraj Kumar Mahato, an undergraduate student, was placed in Birgunj Metropolitan City. Bibek Gaha, a recent high school graduate, was placed in Lekbesi Municipality. Throughout a seven-month-long fellowship from December 2022 to June 2023, the fellows worked on the operationalization of IDMS in their respective municipalities.

Supported by the Data for Development Programme, the fellowship provided valuable training and experience to three individuals from project municipalities. This blog explores activities, challenges, impacts, and learnings from LG Data Fellowship.

Fellowship Activities

Fellows underwent training, and workshops on data lifecycle, and IDMS operation procedure, and went out to carry out different activities:

  • Closely work with the municipal personnel to clean, standardize and integrate datasets into IDMS: Fellows worked closely with municipal personnel to collect data from different departments. Data from different MIS were collected which needed cleaning, and omitting personal information before it was integrated into IDMS.
  • Collaborating with the IT officer and municipal data focal personnel: The data request is fulfilled by the IT officer or the data focal personnel in the municipality so fellows were majorly collaborating with data focal personnel. In addition, collaboration on IDMS operations, learning, and knowledge sharing on features of IDMS was done. Different feedback and request for features were collected that were integrated into IDMS. Identification and collection of the major indicators, and data attributes from various MIS to develop and enhance the IDMS dashboard was done. 
  • Supporting assigned municipality to administer and operationalize IDMS: The operations of the IDMS are the responsibility of the municipality but during the fellowship, the fellows supported the administration and operations of IDMS. From data integration, new data management, and account creation, the fellows supported the activities and helped in the smooth handover of the IDMS.
  • Reporting and documenting the progress, challenges, and learning: Throughout the fellowship, the fellows reported the goals, progress, challenges, and learning in regular online meetings and fellowship reports.
  • Coordination between the municipality and OKN on communications and training workshops: Fellows worked to coordinate the activities of training workshops organized in the municipality by OKN teams. In addition to this, they acted as communication channels for regular feedback and updates from the municipality.

Key Accomplishments

  • Data Competency in Fellows: Fellows were trained on data lifecycle, data-driven decision-making, and data management and sharing using IDMS. Besides training on data, closely working with local government helped them develop insights into municipality policy development and implementation, local government operation, and scope. This combination helped them develop insights into how data can and should be used to make the process more effective.
  • Data Collection on IDMS: Different data that were generated during the operations and service delivery of the municipalities were identified and mapped. Their source, data formats they can be available, significance, and meaning of those data were explored and collected. Such data were cleaned, formatted, and made accessible through IDMS for departmental share and public access. For public access, this collected data is available in the respective frontend system for IDMS in each municipality. Data for Tulsipur is available here.
  • Operationalization of IDMS: Fellows were trained on the IDMS operations, managing, and data publishing, providing role-based access to data management and access, creation and distribution of data management accounts, making data private/public, and many other functionalities of the IDMS. OKN mentors provided fellows with training and learning materials with which fellows managed to operate the IDMS. After developing competency on IDMS, the fellows were able to transfer their skills and support the municipality staff to operate IDMS. The early stages included the activities of IDMS operation by the fellows themselves but in later stages, they acted as support and reviewer of the operations done by municipality staff.
  • Indicators  Collection: Fellows collected and identified the key indicators that the municipality may use for decision-making, progress reporting, and service delivery. These indicators could be used to generate insights into the municipality based on the data produced by different MIS systems. These indicators were integrated into the IDMS dashboard in the form of visualizations.
  • Established IDMS Point of Contact: In the course of the fellowship, fellows have utilized the available network and established a point of contact with the municipality that can be used to carry out further activities on the IDMS project.

Impact, Challenges, and Lessons Learned

Fellowship had a profound impact on the participating municipalities and the fellows themselves. The data collected in IDMS during the fellowship has proven valuable for inter-departmental sharing, public access, and reuse. It has highlighted the importance of data accessibility within municipalities, leading to improved standards and data management practices. On the other hand, the fellows themselves have improved their competency in data, the policy of the municipality, and growing their network.

Implementing the data fellowship in the municipality with a not-so-mature data ecosystem was challenging. Some notable major challenges during fellowship were:

  • Adaptation to new Technology and Workplace: During the initial stages, fellows had to learn and be informed about wide technical and nontechnical topics. Data, IDMS, policy, and working of local governments all were new to them. With the limited understanding, the transfer of operations of IDMS to the municipality was challenging. But this fellowship removed the initial barrier and increased the willingness and curiosity of the data ecosystem and IDMS which helps the future implementation of such initiatives and activities. 
  • Coordination with Stakeholders: Major works of fellowship activities depended on collaboration and coordination with municipality stakeholders. Coordination was challenging in the initial phases which were overcome by time due to trust building among the IDMS team and respective municipality and success of collaborative activities.
  • Server Issues: IDMS was hosted on a government server and faced occasional failures like crashing, downtime, and hence data loss, and unavailability. These issues posed challenges to regular fellows’ operations and the availability of the IDMS system and even raised concerns about data safety and system reliability. Based on the fellowship experiences and results evaluation we have gained some valuable insights on how we may conduct more impactful initiatives in the future. a) More data training and workshops are needed to develop data management and use practice in municipalities. b) Right to Information should be advocated and practiced more while also ensuring that standard and complete data. c) Servers that host the systems must be made reliable so there is no data loss and system crash.


The completion of the first phase of the Local Government Data Fellowship marks a significant milestone in the journey toward data-driven governance. Data fellows’ experiences have empowered them to work closely with local governments, overcoming initial apprehensions and fostering a strong foundation for collaborative data activities in local governments.

The Local Government Data Fellowship has laid a solid foundation for empowering municipalities and building sustainable data ecosystems with the help of IDMS. By harnessing the power of data, these municipalities can make informed decisions that positively impact the lives of their citizens. The commitment and dedication of the data fellows, along with the support from Open Knowledge Nepal and the Data for Development Programme, have been instrumental in driving this transformational change.