Nairobi, 27th June, 2012: More users should be integrated to preach the prosperity of open data, for the information to drive development. This was the call of most speakers as the forum on Open Data Development Camp 2012, curtain raised at Strathmore University, iLabAfrica today. Speaker after speaker at the two day event, seeking to accelerate the uptake of free government data, saw the need for all Kenyans involvement in accessing and using the information to make better decisions about their lives.
“It’s commendable that we have a lot of data available now, trainings have been conducted and applications continue to be developed. But have we used open data satisfactorily? Data must begin to influence country policies for there to be meaning. If our policies were based on data, we would have more resources and address more issues as a country,” Dr Bitange Ndemo, the Ps, in the Ministry of Information and Communication, noted.
Dr Ndemo, an avid crusader for open platforms, also called for the involvement of the civil society, academic institutions and the private society in not analyzing the data, but in also making some of their data available freely.
“Government cannot drive the entire open data agenda, we must begin to ask ourselves, ‘what are we all doing ourselves?” the PS advanced.
Academic institutions have a lot of research in their shelves; they need to share this for users to develop solutions for the country. We must also embrace open learning,” Dr Ndemo, who reported that plans, had progressed on setting up an Open University in Kenya, added.
The more than 200 participants drawn from a diverse group of policy-makers, academia, and development aid workers, researchers, journalists, ICT-staff and software developers were treated to insightful presentation from World Bank, Kenya ICT Board, and Netherlands, Open for Change Initiative.
“We see open data as a match towards open governments. When we made the World Bank data free, we were amazed at what developers were able to do with it, in providing solutions, some of them, that we could never have thought possible,” reported, World Bank Country Director, Johannes Zutt.
Mr Zutt, noted that the open data initiative cannot be successful, unless data started getting consumed by all. “Those enlightened should analyse the data, and disseminate it to the larger public for them to understand,” said Mr Zutt.
Already, Kenya open data portal opendata.go.ke has an excess of 430 data sets uploaded, 176,000+ page views and 5,500+ dataset downloaded and embedded to various websites and blogs. Still, it was felt that there is a lot more that is needed to be done to encourage not only the click to the portal, but for meaningful use of the information in growing and shaping the country’s development.
“Government data is collected using taxpayers money. Under the constitution, citizens have the right to access information held by the state. Open data will help us hold our government accountable, and aid in making informed decisions,” Linet Kwamboka, the Open Data co-ordinator, at Kenya ICT Board, observed.
Of crucial importance too, to the data operation is the passing of the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Bills 2012 which are currently undergoing internal review and stakeholders’ consultation. Already, the government is in discussion on how to regularly publish its data, though it was noted some Ministries are also making their data available in their websites.
These lessons are important as Kenya Open Data Initiative, turns one year on 8th July and aims to share best practices to the rest of Africa which is still embracing the idea of free government data.
The event which is part of The Kenya Open Data Pre-Incubator Program aims to share experiences and networks, build tools, and show the power of Open Data. Going by the tagline, “We are open for change – are you?, the event is a six-month experiment to help accelerate and make sense of data and to galvanize engagement around critical public issues.
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.
Detailed information is available on www.openforchange.inf