More than 100 delegates from across Africa are meeting in Mombasa to discuss developments in the open governance initiative that aims to open up information to the members of the public.
The two-day forum, organised by the Ministry of Information and Communication and the Kenya ICT Board, draws participation from over 16 countries with representatives from government, the civil society and non-governmental organisations.
Delegates will use the forum to compare notes on the developments made in the roll out of open data initiatives in the different countries with a view to avail information freely and openly to the members of the public.
“We are proud to be hosting this forum that brings together top brains from different countries to help improve the standards of this initiative both as individual countries and as a region,” Communications PS Bitange Ndemo said at the opening of the conference on Wednesday.
Kenya is a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a global effort to help governments become more effective and efficient in serving its people. The initiative is intended to increase accountability and transparency.
“Access to information is important to all citizens and is guaranteed under the current constitutional dispensation. We hope a time will come for the communities to rightfully demand for information,” Africog executive director Gladwell Otieno said on Wednesday.
According to Dr Ndemo, the lack of legislation compelling government bodies to release data to the public is the biggest challenge holding back the successful rollout of the open data initiative.
The project, which was launched by President Mwai Kibaki in July last year, is based on provisions of the Constitution that every citizen has the right of access to information held by the State.
The Constitution requires the government to publish and publicise any important information affecting the nation.
Last year, the permanent secretary said the project was facing challenges in getting data from government bodies, leaving it with old and obsolete data sets.
“Lack of the Freedom of Information Act means that we cannot take any action on government bodies that refuse to release data or refuse to respond,” Dr Ndemo said.