Background on Open Government Data
Governments collect, curate and store public sector information (PSI) that’s typically used for their own purposes. When this data is released, in a digital form that can be freely found and used by anyone else for their own purposes, it becomes Open Government Data or ODG.
In Kenya, data includes: various dimensions of population data; local and national government authority expenditure; public health indicator data and statistics including hospital locations; education data such as enrollment rates and school locations; parliamentary proceedings (digital Hansard); weather information and detailed census statistics on topics such as access to electricity, water and sanitation.
What does it mean to be open?
In the Open Government world, open means both technically open and legally open:
Technically open and accessible: the data should be available for free; easy to find (online, in one place and searchable) and in a convenient digital format that’s easy to use and modify (e.g. an XML or spreadsheet file and not a PDF document or image file)
Legally open, reusable and redistributable: the license under which the data are released should allow anybody to use some, all or new combinations of data as they like (e.g. perform analyses or build applications) and then distribute these new works either commercially or for free.
Why is open government data important?
This data already exists, it’s already been paid for, it’s about the public and it belongs to the public. Government data is a valuable resource for users outside government. Making it open means more people can benefit from it, in more ways than the government alone can think of or support. OGD can foster a better relationship between citizens and government and between citizens and citizens – it can create economic and social value for a country, and help people make better decisions in their own lives.
Who uses open government data?
Users include: different departments and ministries within government; members of the public; journalist and the media; academics and researchers; policy makers; technology developers; companies and private sector service providers; international institutions and even other governments.
How is this different to freedom of information (FOI) or right to information (RTI)?
FOI and RTI is about citizens “pulling data” out of government on-demand. Open Government Data is about governments “pushing data” out proactively: with good ODG, you don’t have to ask, you can just use the information that’s already accessible. If the data you want is not there, you can ask the government to publish it as OGD so that everyone can benefit from it.