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Adopt data-driven reporting, Kenyan media urged

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 24 – The media in Kenya has been urged to adopt data driven-journalism as opposed to run-of-the mill press conferences to keep the public academically engaged.

A digital analyst from South Africa Justin Arenstein said the future of journalism is hinged on use of data from platforms such as the Kenya Open Data portal.

“Newsrooms must implement better forensic research and evidence-based reporting,” he said at a meeting called for media owners to discuss use of open data.

According to the Kenya Open Data taskforce chairman Al Kags, the platform will enable the media houses to be more efficient in their reporting.

“It is one thing to tell a story and say ‘mama so-and-so has not had water for the last five years’, but if you back that information up with data that says with ‘mama so-and-so is one of 150,000 people in a certain environment’, then your story acquires depth,” Kags said.

The Africa Centre for Open Governance Executive Director Gladwell Otieno said that certain principles need to be structured and put in place to allow for the inclusion and participation if the general population.

“The country action plan must be structured around various principles and an important part of that principle is inclusion and participation of the population. This is not just about the government making a quick official commitment saying we will do this, that or the other. The citizens have to be also consulted,” she said.

World Bank Senior Social Development Specialist Christopher Finch said the platform will further make public government data accessible to everyone.

“The idea behind this is to get some civil service, media and other users of data to make use of this initiative,” he stated.

The Kenya Open Data initiative was launched by President Mwai Kibaki in July last year, making key government data freely available to the public through a single online portal.

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The 2009 census, national and regional expenditure and information on key public services are some of the first datasets to be released.

The website is a user-friendly platform that allows for visualisations and downloads of the data and easy access for software developers. Kenya is the first developing country to have an open government data portal, the first in sub-Saharan Africa and second on the continent after Morocco.

The initiative has been widely acclaimed globally as one of the most significant steps Kenya has made to improve governance and implement the new Constitution’s provisions on access to information.

The goal of opendata.go.ke is to make core government development, demographic, statistical and expenditure data available in a useful digital format for researchers, policymakers, ICT developers and the general public.

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