African Technology and Data Pioneers Gather to Spark Open Data Revolution [press release]

A collaborative, regional agenda-setting workshop, Rebooting Open Data in Africa, held in Addis Ababa will today kick start a new drive to pioneer enhanced transparency and accountability in Africa with open data.

Today, led by the World Wide Web Foundation, fifty African civil society organisations, open data advocates and technology pioneers will come together to take the first steps towards establishing a groundbreaking new policy and investment framework to open up government data in Africa. Following the UN’s call for a Data Revolution, this coalition of organisations will agree concrete next steps to unlock the potential of open data across the continent, which experts agree could help beat corruption, spark innovation and improve government services.

The event – an interactive workshop being held in conjunction with the High Level Conference (HLC) on the Data Revolution in Africa – will track progress to date towards opening up data in Africa. Participants – including representatives from ActionAid, Africa Freedom of Information Centre, Code for South Africa, IDRC, Social Justice Coalition, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation and the World Bank will take the first steps towards creating a new vision, identifying knowledge gaps, devising new strategies and setting innovative new 2020 targets to deepen and broaden the open data revolution Africa desperately needs. The outcomes of this meeting will be used to inform the main HLC deliberations, which start one day later.

This new drive will focus on four areas, namely:

  • Public budgeting, procurement and contracting;
  • Ownership and behavior of private companies and key natural resources (energy, oil, gas, land etc);
  • Public leadership integrity and performance (financial interests, campaign contributions, performance appraisals, records of debates etc);
  • Realisation of human and peoples’ rights (census, women, health, education, inequalities, rights enjoyment or denial etc).

Speaking ahead of Rebooting Open Data in Africa, Jose M. Alonso, Open Data Programme Manager at the World Wide Web Foundation said:

“We’re working to open up government data in Africa to deliver real improvements to the day-to-day lives of African people through improved government services, and greater accountability and transparency. Home-grown solutions to thorny challenges such as appropriate models of innovation, education and capacity building that can support community and government-led initiatives must be developed. Sustained leadership and investment are additional key success factors.”

This regional agenda-setting workshop is hosted by the World Wide Web Foundation and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and financially supported by the International Development Research Centre as part of the Harnessing Open Data to Achieve Development Results in Asia and Africa project and the High Level Conference on Data Revolution.

Stay updated and follow the event on Twitter using #ODAfrica2015 and #datarev

Further background on the current state of Open Data in Africa

The initiative has been informed by the release of the Web Foundation’s Open Data Barometer, a review of the global state of open government data and right to information. The study found that African countries lag behind other developing countries in regions such as Asia and Latin America. Only a small number of African countries such as Kenya and Ghana have established open government data initiatives, but these remain highly dependent upon a limited network of leaders and technical experts. Across the continent, only Ghana and Kenya publish data on government spending that could help uncover corruption and enhance service delivery, but that even this data is not provided in a format that can be easily used by members of the public. Similarly, only Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Rwanda, Kenya, and Ghana publish data that could help improve health outcomes, although these are also in formats that are hard for members of the public to make use of. The study cited limited government, civil society or private sector capacity; limits on affordable widespread Internet access; and weaknesses in digital data collection and management in Africa as the main challenges that must be overcome.

The rankings (out of 86 countries surveyed in 2014) stand as follows:

Highest-ranked Sub-Saharan African countries

Country | Open Data Barometer rank

South Africa | 41

Rwanda | 46 (tie)

Ghana | 46 (tie)

Kenya | 49

Mauritius | 54

Lowest-ranked Sub-Saharan African countries

Mali | 84

Cameroon | 83

Sierra Leone | 78 (tie)

Zambia | 78 (tie)

Ethiopia  | 78 (tie)

Botswana | 78 (tie)

Namibia | 77

About Rebooting Open Data in Africa

The workshop will seek to energise and strengthen a network of self-sustaining and African-owned organizations working on open data research and development supported and coordinated by the Web Foundation’s Open Data Labs under the Open Data for Development Network. This workshop is supported by the IDRC-funded Harnessing Open Data to Achieve Development Results in Africa and Asia project and organized by the Web Foundation.

It is being held before the High Level Conference (HLC) on Data Revolution in Africa. The conference is being organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Union Commission, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

2) About the World Wide Web Foundation

The World Wide Web Foundation was established in 2009 by Web inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Our mission? To advance the open Web as a public good and a basic right.

Thanks to the Web, for the first time in history we can glimpse a society where everyone, everywhere has equal access to knowledge, voice and the ability to create. In this future, vital services such as health and education are delivered efficiently, access to knowledge unlocks economic value whilst access to information enhances transparency and strengthens democracy. To achieve this vision, the Web Foundation operates at the confluence of technology, research and development, targeting three key areas: Access, Voice and Participation. Our work on open data connects across these themes, working to support inclusive approaches to open data impact across the globe.

Our work on open data covers:

Research – As part of the Open Data for Development Network, we support research and research capacity building across three continents. From 2013 – 2015 the Open Data in Developing Countries project has been exploring use and impacts of open data, and a new phase of this project will commence in early 2015, supporting regional research agendas in Africa and Asia. We also produce the Open Data Barometer (see 3, below)

Innovation – including building the first Open Contracting Data Standard, aimed at putting the $9 trillion that governments spend annually on procurement into the public domain. The project puts our values and research into practice, developing the standard through an open and inclusive approach, and keeping a focus on the participatory potential of open contracting data.

Training & capacity building – The Web Foundation’s Open Data Labs are experimenting with how open data can make a real difference in the Global South. By trying out new approaches, we want to accelerate progress and ensure open data rapidly becomes a vital tool to tackle practical problems in developing and emerging economies. Our first Open Data Lab is now open in Jakarta, and we will be announcing more soon.

Engagement – To encourage and support more governments to open up their data to citizens, we are co-chairing the Open Data Working Group of the Open Government Partnership, which brings together 80 governments and 120 civil society organisations to share practical know-how and promote good practices.

3) About the Open Data Barometer

The Open Data Barometer aims to uncover the true prevalence and impact of open data initiatives around the world. It analyses global trends, and provides comparative data on countries and regions via an in-depth methodology combining contextual data, technical assessments and secondary indicators to explore multiple dimensions of open data readiness, implementation and impact. The first edition of the Open Data Barometer showed that 55% of countries surveyed have open data initiatives in place, yet less than 10% of key government datasets across the world are truly open to the public.

The full report is available to view here: www.opendatabarometer.org. All the data, and methodologies, underlying this report will be available under an open license at www.opendatabarometer.org – shared to support further analysis, deeper discussion of open data research methods, and deeper exploration of the global state of open data policy and practice.

Support for the Open Data Barometer report was provided through IDRC Grant 107075 ( www.idrc.ca). The 2013 report, and much of the methodological development, was also supported by the Open Data Institute.

4) About Open Data

Open data has been described as “content can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose”.

Accessible – by being proactively published, and being made available without charge.

Machine-readable – by being published in file formats and structures that allow computers to extract and process the data: sorting, filtering and searching through the contents.

Re-usable – by being made available under legal regimes or explicit terms that place a minimum of restrictions on how the data may be used. At most the publisher can specify how the source should be acknowledged.