KODI reaches out to data users

The Government of Kenya has taken first steps to meeting the data demand needs of users: in June we partnered with them to hold a roundtable meeting engaging civil society.

In 2010, Kenya adopted a new constitution. The new constitution did away with the centralised government structure and put in place 47 devolved governance units of administration, called counties.

While the transition into devolved governance needed three more years of consultation and a general election to fully implement, the government almost immediately executed elements of Article 35 of the new constitution, which focused on citizen rights to information access.

In partnership with the World Bank, Kenya became the second African country after Tunisia to launch a government open data portal dubbed KODI (the Kenya Open Data Initiative) in 2011.

Evolution in data use in Kenya

After four years of use, KODI is undergoing an interesting evolution.

At its start, KODI hosted about 200 datasets; the portal has grown to now hold over 500. However, even with this growth, demand has not been sufficient. The current discussion is thus centred around correcting an intangible flaw built in at launch: lack of awareness.

If access to information is to have a significant impact on Kenya cementing its middle income status and on poverty alleviation, engagement with government data needs to improve.

To help create awareness, ownership and demand for hosted data, the government, via the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) formed a series of engagements to target civil society organisations, the media, academia, the private sector and other government agencies.

Government of Kenya forum with civil society

On the 11 June the Government of Kenya through the ICT Board and partnership with Development Initiatives held the first of a two-part consultative engagement forum with civil society. The one-day roundtable meeting took place at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies.

The meeting brought together open data practitioners, champions and users in one room and notable presentations were on the Humanitarian Data Exchange platform (HDX) and how it works, new geocoding features on KODI and a presentation from Development Initiatives on the ‘Data Revolution’.

Participants grouped together to identify the key challenges facing the three sectors and come up with ways in which they could be addressed:

  • Education, youth and citizen participation
  • Financial governance (government)
  • Heath and humanitarian data

Participants’ recommendations for KODI

While the recommendations were many, and priority datasets identified were different for the groups, two recommendations cut across.

  1. As Kenya fully embraces e-governance, major ministries and government agencies are pushing datasets through their websites; other stakeholders, from CSOs to academia and the private sector, churn out datasets of their own. Housed separately the data becomes hard to find. These datasets tell relevant stories standing alone, but put together they would tell a bigger and broader relevant story.
  1. It was recommended that KODI becomes a central repository for all these datasets and possibly join them to be really successful. Of course this comes with the pointed challenges of data interoperability, specifically how to standardise data for joining up.

We now await the second consultative roundtable where we hope KODI will have acted on the recommendations; in particular, it would be great to see an increase in dataset numbers on the portal aimed at capturing CSOs’ priority set of recommendations. Again we will work with the government to hold the roundtable and will publicise the date once set.