Ahmed Maawy is a Shaper with the Global Shapers Community (Which is an Initiative of the World Economic Forum) and an Executive Director with M-Power (CBO) as well as Director of Startup Grind Mombasa. He also works as a Software Developer for Volo Broadband. Ahmed is also one of the pioneers in the groundbreaking institution that aims to create a world without boundaries, The Amani Institute's Post Graduate certificate in Social Innovation Management.
Kenya ranked #71 in the 2014 Open Data Index / Other stories from Africa
The Index was new to all of us this year in Mombasa, and it was the first time we came up with the Open Data Task Force. People were passionate about learning about the concept that was new to them in regards to the openness of data and were willing to learn more about how they can become a part of the process in making data easier to access.
Around 20 individuals turned out on Sunday the 9th of November 2014. Although there was an effort to revise the Global Index Submissions made, the event was also specifically intended to create an awareness around Open Data and the Global Open Data Index in Mombasa. However, the key part of the event was the group work that was done by the teams - they split into three teams and started deliberating on the Global Open Data Index and assessed the datasets that were available from a variety of sources and brainstormed potential weaknesses using the Global Open Data Index site as a guide on important parameters and made recommendations and suggestions from their findings.
The challenges that were mostly identified by the participants – in regards to the Kenyan ecosystem - were:
- A lot of the data was old and was not up to date
- The datasets were not also as informative and deep as was required
- The datasets only covered specific areas of the country and did not provide a wider picture
- Availability of open data resources: Some websites for instance were not always available and were slow to access
- Collaboration between various parties involved in the data space was not visible. Some of these links were also broken links
I think in Africa Kenya is better than many other states, but we still have a lot of room to improve. There is still not much data out there for key categories such as transport sector data and postal and zip codes. But definitely what lies ahead in terms of opening up data is far more work compared to what has been liberated. Citing the challenges mentioned above there is a lot of work to be done in order to improve on Open Data and present citizens with data that can be of value to the day to day decisions they make about their lives.
There are a couple of circumstances in which we overlook a lot of important issues when it comes to open data. The index helps in many ways:
- It defines a benchmark to assess how healthy and helpful our open datasets are.
- It allows us to make comparisons between different countries.
- Allows us to asses what countries are doing right and what countries are doing wrong and to learn from each other.
- Provides a standard framework that allows us to identify what we need to do or even how to implement or make use of open data in our countries and identify what we are strong at or what we are week at. It is like an SI Unit that measures the availability and effectiveness of open data in countries across the globe.
As always, open data allows citizens to make informed choices about their lives. When this data is not available, it is not only the citizens at loss, but it is a country at loss. Because then the citizens can never attain a level of efficiency required by the economy just due to the fact they can never make choices on solid facts and figures. So it is a loss across the board.
The discussions that were done while making review of the Open Data Index aided by the visual feedback presented by the Open Data Index platform provides us with valuable insights on what we need to improve in order to attain efficiency in our economies.
I hope that the various Open Data initiatives can collaborate to fill in the gaps presented by the data index platform and by the recommendations raised. This data is key in defining what is lacking and what needs to be the next area of focus for all initiatives in the open data space. It gives a clear indication on what are the major priorities and what are the minor priorities. Then each year the Index will present to us how well we have performed in addressing the major issues, as we work to resolve the minor issues over time, collectively.