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Open data portal moving to the next level

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Two weeks after the launch of an open data portal, through which government information is made available to the public, the Information Ministry has embarked on a campaign to sell the initiative to stakeholders and ensure its success.

Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo explained on Wednesday that the intention was to rope in more Kenyans so that they can access all the information they need and assist in ensuring a transparent and accountable government.

“What we are trying to do is to implement the Constitution which has a provision for right to information. Our role as a ministry is to take data and convert it into information so that it can be used for economic development,” the PS affirmed.

Data such as the national census, geospatial information on health and education and statistics which have for a long time been viewed as ‘top government secret’, will now be freely available on the Internet.

The State will also be able to plan better and improve service delivery.

The launch was a landmark event for the country, which was a first in Africa and puts Kenya on the global map as one of the states that have begun to re-distribute power from the government to the society.

Its importance to the public has become evident especially going by the hundreds of requests to include more data from various sectors into the portal that the ministry has been inundated with since it’s unveiling.

Besides empowering the citizens to hold the government to account, the program is expected to provide thousands of jobs opportunities for the youth.

“We have more than one hundred applications from our young people. These (applications) are going to be replicated in many countries. That means a lot of resources will come into Kenya and that was the driving force behind this,” Dr Ndemo emphasised.

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And to ensure that the initiative ‘stays alive’, more content on agriculture, education and health will continue to be uploaded onto the site that has been placed under the custody of the Kenya ICT Board.

Voicing his praise for the program, Aleem Walji who heads the World Bank’s Innovation team challenged the government to move to the next step and establish partnerships with Kenyans so as to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy.

“Almost overnight, you have taken a step that has not only catapulted Kenya but Africa to the global stage and created the opportunity to move from what I’d like to call e-government to we-government,” Mr Walji commended.

He continued: “Open data is not just about transparency and accountability; it refers to the possibility of moving from government for people to a government with people and government by people.”

These possibilities have begun to emerge with several innovative entrepreneurs creating platforms that are exploiting this data and providing related services to the general public

For instance, there is the ‘Huduma’ platform that gives a breakdown of the health facilities in the different counties in relation to the population in this area and aims to draw attention to these differences so that policy makers can address them in line with the Vision 2030.

Another one is an application dubbed ‘Shimba Mobile’ through which all Kenyans can be able to track the projects that are undertaken under the Constituency Development Fund, the finances allocated to them and the people in charge, through their mobile phones.

Such projects serve to validate the government’s target of having the ICT sector contribute five percent of the country’s GDP in the next five years.

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