5 September 2015

Tanzania: Kikwete Advocates for Open Data Use

President Jakaya Kikwete has stressed on the importance of open data use in delivery of services as the right path to gauge progress and demonstrate achievements.

Speaking at the opening of Africa Open Data Conference, the first of its kind in Africa, that brought together about 500 delegates from 30 different countries in Dar es Salaam, President Kikwete said there was no doubt that Africa needed to embrace open data in her development agenda.

"Data assists us with the diagnosis of social and economic challenges, informs policy choices and decisions and helps us with monitoring and evaluation of progress and impact.

Much as data does not in itself change the world, it is also true, however, that it makes change possible," Mr Kikwete philosophically explained.

He said time for serious use of open data has come because it is the way to go about achieving Africa's Vision 2063 of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.

However, the president does not underestimate the difficulties or challenges ahead in the process towards achieving open data initiative, but earnestly convinced that it was the best path to a better Africa which should not in any way jeopardise national security but rather enhance it.

"African governments are also grappling with the dilemma between promoting open data on one hand and maintaining data sovereignty on the other.

The challenge has always been about where to strike a balance between the two," he clarified. It must be understood that, Mr Kikwete added, open data does not and should not mean absolute freedom to produce, access and publish data and cautioned that data relating to national security issues should not be made public for obvious reasons.

He gave an example of the acceptable margins of concealed operations by security organs, for example, when security agents investigating terror threats and not obliged to share every detail until the appropriate time.

The president observed the disturbing relationship between underdevelopment and underutilisation of quality data (and vice versa), which has been a function of lack of capacity on the part of responsible government institutions to collect, process and store data.

"In many of our countries, budgetary constraints, poor infrastructure and lack of qualified human capital have been responsible for this sad state of affairs.

In Tanzania, for example, there was a time several district councils recorded qualified opinion in their annual financial records.

We decided to hire 780 qualified accountants who managed data professionally and the problem was solved within no time," he explained.

In his concluding remarks, President Kikwete said Tanzania would continue to support and live up to her commitment on open data. "Early this year we endorsed the Guidelines for Open Data in Tanzania.

The guidelines serve as a tool for ministries, government departments and agencies to provide data to the Open Data Government Portal.

We are also in the process of coming up with an Open Data Policy that will put in place procedures for identifying government open data, institutional framework for open data management for the public to access data," he clarified.

Speaking at the same occasion, the World Bank Country Director, Ms Bella Bird, said governments across the world are changing the way they look at data, as the ideas was no longer just a topic of interest for statisticians but relevant for all government sectors that aim to measure progress and demonstrate achievements.

"This conference therefore is very timely - as the world prepares for a historic summit to agree upon the Sustainable Development Goals later this month - leaders will gather to reflect on the global priorities that guide our development, including data," Ms Bird said.

She underlined the importance of data revolution in Africa, the continent experiencing the fastest development changes, in population, in urbanisation and in economic development.

Meanwhile, the World Bank Board has approved 80 million US dollars to accelerate job creation in Tanzania and the financing will contribute to the removal of barriers to doing business.

According to a World Bank statement availed to the media yesterday, the bank's Board of Executive Directors approved the amount to improve Tanzania's private sector performance in order to enhance its role in employment creation in the country.

"Over the past decade, private sector investment has been concentrating in a few fast growing sectors such as the extractives, finance, communication and transport, while labour-intensive sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing expanded below the average rate of the economy (about 7 per cent in 2014/15).

As a result, job creation did not accelerate to keep pace with the growth of the working population," read part of the statement signed by Ms Bird.

The document further revealed that thousands of young people enter the workforce every year and were filled with energy and high expectations.

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