Kenya opens doors for open data scholars
Over 200 participants in the technology field will for the next two days converge at the Strathmore University for this year’s Open Data Development Camp 2012 which coincides with the first anniversary of the Kenya Open Data Initiative.
“We surely have made strides in freeing government data to the public. But despite the enthusiastic reception within that year, open data has not been without its setbacks and there are still huge challenges ahead like lack of the Freedom of Information Act which would make data release mandatory” said Information and Communication Dr. Bitange Ndemo in his key note address
themed “We are open for change – are you”?
The Camp is organized by the Kenya Open Data Pre-Incubator Program, which is a six-month experiment to help accelerate, make sense of data and galvanize engagement around critical public issues, with participants sharing experiences, networks and showing the power of Open Data.
“We anticipate that this year’s Camp will convene the open data and transparency movement’s most creative thinkers whose conversations will help galvanize more ministries to open up their data. The open data portal was just an initial march to development through freeing useful government data; our next task will be to pursue solutions inspired by the same data for the public good,” said Linet Kwamboka, Kenya ICT Board Open Data coordinator.
The Kenya Open Data Initiative was launched on July 8 2011, by President Mwai Kibaki making Kenya the first African country to avail government data freely to the public through a single online portal.
“The phenomenal growth of ICT has had a bearing on Kenya’s 20% GDP growth recorded in the last 10 years. The advent of mobile money has brought access to quisite financial services and contributed to mobile phone penetration. For open data to have an impact on the general public then, it needs to be packaged in such a way that it’s available in an easy to use format” said Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director.
From previous conferences the number of datasets has since increased from 200 to 430 as of May 2012 with a total of 5,500 downloaded and embedded to various websites and blogs, with the Open Data Master Classes and Journalist trainings boosting demand and Use for the same.
Despite of the successes recorded in that year, there have been considerable obstacles from accessing, utilizing and accelerating public understanding of data from proprietary web services to government ministries who see open data as a threat.
“The data may be available but does the consumer understand the importance of open data? The challenge of opening and sharing data leaves just as much work to be done by the civic society as there is on the government side. We need to explore synergies to ensure that we produce information required for day-to-day use”, added Ms. Kwamboka .
Under the new constitution, citizens have the right to access information held by the state and ensure government accountability. The passing of the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Bills 2012 which are currently undergoing internal review and stakeholders’ consultation, the government is in discussion on how to regularly publish its data, though it was noted some Ministries are also making their data available on their websites.
“The Open Data Initiative cannot be successful, unless data starts getting consumed by all. A set of legal principles on open data need to be developed so that key stakeholders can reach an explicit and formal agreement under what terms open data should be published towards a read/write culture for public data”, added Mr Zutt.
Lessons drawn from this two day session will be shared with the rest of Africa which is still embracing the idea of open data. Organizers of the open data development camp 2012 include: ICT Board Kenya, Kenya Open Data Initiative, Open for Change, World Bank, NaiLab, @iLabAfrica, Akvo, 1%CLUB, Hivos, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and Development Gateway.