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Placing lessons from the ODDC research at the heart of the data revolution debate

From Left to Right: Lillian Achom, Projects Manager, Computers for Schools Kenya, Joseph Kamau, Quality Internal Auditor, Digital Divide Data, Bernard Sabiti, Ome Mejabi and Amy Ngai of the Sunlight Foundation USA.Between the 6th and the 9th of October 2014, phase I ODDC case studies from Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya were presented at the 2014 Buntwani Conference as co-facilitators and panelists in a session on Open data and Data revolution held at the Kenya School of Government in Nairobi, Kenya. The theme of conference was “The potential of ICT in strengthening citizen engagement and participation”

ODDC researchers Bernard Sabiti fromDevelopment Research and Training and Development initiatives, Zacharia Chilishwa of theJesuit Hakimani Centre in Nairobi and Dr. Omenogo Veronica Mejabi -Senior Lecturer, University of Ilorin, Nigeria presented highlights of their case studies and fielded questions from the audience. The session was moderated by Linet Kwamboka of the Kenya ICT Authority

The session highlighted motivations and interests we had in studying open data and what opportunities exists for organizations working on open data and ICT exist to collaborate with governments. (how for example the new system of devolved government in Kenya is using data revolution principles in addressing issues of expenditure, structures, public participation and citizen engagement); Build understanding among participants about the strategic use of ICT in citizen engagement efforts, and assess the extent to which ICT and innovation can and will play a role in ensuring service delivery, citizen engagement, accountability and transparency.

The session was also aimed at providing an opportunity for selected researchers to be given a space to share their experiences and demonstrate their concepts and highlight initiatives that are using ICT more creatively for open government and citizen engagement.

Bernard shared a summary of the findings from DRT and DI’s case study which explored the potential of open data to impact resource allocation in Uganda and Kenya where he highlighted the importance of considering context in the open data debate. Most infrastructures in the two countries, despite rapid growth of ICTs are still analog and traditional. Decision making in both countries, despite rapidly increasing growth of the ICT sectors, the friendly access to information polices, is still bureaucratic and traditional. He however cited the enormous potential of open data in the two countries if actors harness their efforts for a more comprehensive approach that recognize the unique contexts of the two countries while making a case for ICT-themed open data initiatives.

Dr. Ome also shared her case study’s findings of the investigation of the use of the Online National Budget of Nigeria and how most ministries, agencies and Departments of the government still upload PDFs and budget reports from the budget process but also added that with smart strategic engagement attitudes towards open data are changing and the government of Nigeria is now sharing more machine-readable budget data.   

Zacharia shared JHC’s experience in investigating the Impact of Kenya’s Open Data Initiative on Marginalized Communities JHC’s Case Study of Urban Slums and Rural Settlements; exploring the possible link between open data and service delivery. Key issues that emerged are how traditional infomediaries plays a critical role in assisting communities in low income settlements to access services and make open data of value to citizens.

Linet the moderator ensured that the session was highly participatory, inviting the audience to ask questions and share views. Part of the recurrent theme from the Q&A session was that Civil Society should not consider government engagement as a one sided matter in which ONLY the government is required to do things. When it comes to open Data especially, CSOs also must share their data. There was a feeling that some members of the open data ecosystem, particularly Think Tanks, Academia and CSOs are not always open to sharing their data themselves. This must change, if only to demonstrate commitment that we expect other actors to have.

The session discussions were being live-tweeted by the audience, which showed the level of interest in the session and the entire conference as well.

And it goes without saying that we made important connections with actors in ICT, Government, Private Sector and Civil Society.

You can find tweets telling the story of the full event below: