Kenya goes open government data

I am pleased to share some good news: Kenya has started Sub-Saharan Africa’s first Open Data Initiative, and underscored the fact that the country’s ICT (Information and communication technologies) sector is an important pillar of revenue and innovative spirit.

Dr. Ndemo explains in an interview what opening up government data could mean for Kenya, and which opportunities this revolution will give to African economies. He stressed that it was a Kenyan initiative that pressed for government data which is already published to be released in a format that invites a whole sector to make a go of a global trend.

Over the last few months it has emerged ever more clearly that Kenya is a major player in the field of data applications and as well as a software leader. Already 15% of the country’s GDP can be traced to the ICT sector, but there is still more in store. Last Friday the Kenyan Open Data Initiative was launched, and Dr. Ndemo points out that data which was until now kept in a shelf is now out there for the taking, and can be used for apps to create employment and improve interaction between citizens and government. He goes on to explain how the onset of open government data will bring about fundamental changes in society, and that particularly visualisations of data can uncover details that up until now haven’t been quite so clear. It is a chance for a much wider audience to understand information better and faster. This in turn then empowers people to make the right decisions in critical times.

An example was the suspected link between number of children and level of education. A simple visual app clearly proves beyond doubt that in Kenya women who finish a college education delay starting a family and on average have a family of four children, whereas woman with primary education or less have eight kids.

Demographic , educational  and other core government data on development, statistics and expenditure are now available in a useful digital format for anyone to access. The information technology sector is growing at an impressive rate of 2,5% yearly at the moment, but it is expected that with the release of not-security sensitive information on Kenya’s transparency platform even higher growth is within the possible..

Dr. Ndemo also brought up another interesting point, which is the fact that governments like to sell their data and thus create a regular income. But nobody is loosing out here: however much money the authorities will loose in sales, they will get in taxes. Better business opportunities will result in higher taxes and will make up for this loss as government receives more revenue.small_flower.gif

Kenya is blessed with young innovative developers who already contribute much to the international open data and application industry, but now they can use their creativity for their own country and become a showcase for other African nations. This is great opportunity to improve and create business models in our globalised world.

And by the way, one of the first apps to hit the scene since Kenya’s open government portal was launched was a visualisation of local politicians – and if they paid their taxes!

I will be looking into this platform regularly in the future, and I am sure as more datasets become available we are going to see some really eye-opening visualisations and apps.

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