|Title||Case Study Report on Investigation of the Use of the Online National Budget of Nigeria|
|Year of Publication||2014|
|Authors||Mejabi, Omenogo Veronica, Azeez Adesina L., Adedoyin Adeyinka, and Oloyede Muhtahir Oluwaseyi|
|Institution||University of Ilorin|
Nigeria is a county facing severe challenges from corruption and weak governance. In the last year, Open Government Data initiatives have been launched in resource-rich Edo State, soon followed by an initiative at the Federal level with the objective of driving innovation, investment and economic growth by enabling access to government data. Through opening government data these initiatives also aim to encouraging feedback, information-sharing and increased accountability.
National government budgets in Nigeria have been made available online from 2007 onwards, although as yet no standard approach to their publication has been adopted. Whilst not fully machine-readable open data, the availability of the budget data over recent years, and the emergence of a number of intermediaries using it, provides an opportunity to explore the interaction of supply of, and demand for, open budget data. This case study, carried out by the University of Ilorin, uses a mixed-methods approach to survey open budget data stakeholders from government, civil society and the media, and to analyse media coverage of the budget to look for evidence of data use.
Although it is argued that open data will be accessible to all, the findings of this study suggest that data owners generally understand that the literate, and elites, are the core audience for the data they supply online. Choices about how data is published are shaped by the technologies available to government officials, and a desire to ensure the ‘integrity’ of the published data. Budget data suppliers may want to supply ‘inert’ datasets that cannot be manipulated, whereas intermediaries who are spending lots of effort disaggregating and re-structuring budget data to make it accessible to end-users may benefit from more ‘adaptable’ machine-readable data (c.f. @Yu2012). This said, in practice many users of budget data, particularly in the media, rely upon static PDF copies of budget data, or the figures presented in press briefings and releases, rather than upon primary analysis of raw data. This highlights both a potential skills gap (low data-journalism skills), and the limitations of current data in meeting media interest. For example, to find a ‘story’ in data, the media may be interested in linking budget allocations and voting data, suggesting the need for an eco-system of more joined up data before the greatest benefits of open data can be felt.
Those surveyed perceive the greatest potential impacts of open data to be on increasing government efficiency, and increasing the inclusion of marginalised groups in decision making. There was less confidence amongst respondents in the potential of open data to bring greater accountability, or to enhance the economy. Realising the inclusion benefits of open data is likely to require sustained intermediary action, although the strong motivation amongst survey respondents to use budget data to “push for budget performance that would alleviate poverty” suggests that there may be good foundations in place to build upon.
The study recommends an increased focus on the use of ICT to support advocacy groups working at the grassroots, as well as awareness raising of the budget data at the grassroots level. It also recommends linking expenditure and budget data, and increased standardisation of the way budget data is provided, enabling greater scrutiny of budget implementation. Crucially, given the early stage of open data developments in Nigeria, it closes with the need for learning events that can bring together academics, government, professionals and civil society organisations to establish collaboration among them for the good and growth of open data initiative in Nigeria.
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