Saturday, November 10, 2012

Kenya open data initiative has hit a dead end, says PS

PHOTO | FILE President Mwai Kibaki flanked by Minister for Information and Communications, Hon. Samuel Poghisio tour an exhibition stand during the official launch of the Government Open Data Web Portal at KICC, Nairobi in 2011.

PHOTO | FILE President Mwai Kibaki flanked by Minister for Information and Communications, Hon. Samuel Poghisio tour an exhibition stand during the official launch of the Government Open Data Web Portal at KICC, Nairobi in 2011. According to Information and Communications PS Bitange Ndemo, the Kenya open data initiative project has hit a dead end with organisations refusing to release data to be uploaded to the public portal.  PPS

By CHARLES WOKABI [email protected]

Less than two years after the government launched the Kenya open data initiative, the project has hit a dead end with organisations refusing to release data to be uploaded to the public portal.

Information and Communications permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo told the Sunday Nation that the ministry was getting frustrated because of the low amount of data supplied by organisations.

“We are not getting data from organisations because they claim to own it, even those that have collected the data using taxpayers’ money. We are working on a Cabinet memo that would legally oblige these ministries and government agencies to provide data,” Dr Ndemo said.

The Cabinet memo, the PS said, will seek to address the challenge by compelling the government ministries and other public institutions like the police to release data to the public freely through the initiative.

“There is no reason at all why anyone should hold on to information and claim to own it. Even university research papers should be dispatched as public information to help improve lives of Kenyans and aid planning.

This will also improve performance of the open learning initiative,” said Dr Ndemo said.

Supply information

The fact that most of the government ministries and regulatory and research bodies are yet to digitise their data has also been a challenge to information supply for the Kenya open data portal.

In a recent interview, Kenya ICT Board Local Digital Content project manager Kaburo Kobia said the priority has been given to Judiciary, Lands ministry, health and police records are the first to be digitised because they present very important data that could be used in planning and development of useful applications.

The Kenya open data initiative was officially launched in July last year by President Kibaki, with the aim of putting Kenya among the first Third World countries to make government information freely available to its citizens in a single portal.

By mid this year, the portal had over 430 data sets, up from about 200 last year; the number is expected to increase significantly if more cooperation is seen in the release of the data held by various public organisations.

At its inception, the open data initiative was expected to set off a spirited boom in application development, but according to Dr Ndemo, only a few more of 50 new applications have come up based on the initiative.

Governments around the world, especially in the West, are continually embracing this initiative to offer government information to citizens.

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