21 November 2012

Kenya: Open Data Portal Not That Open

Kenyans may take longer to fully and freely enjoy access of information through the Kenya Open Data Portal as many government organizations continue to hold key information needed by the public.

The Inniative was launched by President Mwai Kibaki in July last year with the aim of putting Kenya among the first developing countries to make government information freely available to its citizens in a single portal.

But the ICT board says that many organizations argue they own any data even that which they collected using state resources or donor funds.

Linet Kwamboka, the Open Data co-ordinator, at Kenya ICT Board called for legislation that will govern the portal and demand information from organizations especially the government agencies.

"More resistance is from the side of the government even when we are ready to help them put the information in the portal. But we encourage the private sector and civil societies to also come in and put more data in the portal," she urged.

Most of the government agencies are still in fear of being scrutinized of corruption and other related cases that would result to public query.

"You know there is that extra shilling I spent in buying a pen and if I put some of this information into the portal, I would be caught up. But as someone said, civil servants work well when they have legislation," Kwamboka added.

Another big challenge is the fact that most of the government ministries and regulatory and research bodies are yet to digitize their data as most of them still operate on paperwork.

The board which is under the Ministry of Information and Communication however plans to assist some of these government agencies to digitize their information that could be used in planning and development of useful applications.

The board plans first focus on digitizing police records, Judiciary, Lands Ministry and the data from the Ministry of Health.

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.

As of April 2012 there were over 430 datasets with 176,000 page views.

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.

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