Representatives of Government, NGOs and CSOs, Donors, Academia, tech community and community-based actors converged at Hotel African in Kampala on June 5, 2014 to discuss the findings of the ODDC case study, “How open data could contribute to poverty eradication in Kenya and Uganda through its impacts on resource allocation”. The study set out to Compare Kenya And Uganda On Open Data, Transparency And Accountability And Poverty Eradication by studying a set of open data initiatives in both countries.
The event was a culmination of over a year of study carried out by Development Initiatives and Development Research and Training whose Overall objective was to establish whether open data initiatives in both countries contribute in any significant way to the process of allocating resources intended for poverty eradication, and/or whether a potential for such impact exists.
Over the study period, we took opportunities to contribute to the growth of the open data movement in the two countries by participating in debates, forums and discussions on openness and transparency and by engaging actors both government and non-government on the importance of open data in allocation of resources. The result is that Open data has at least joined the maxim of development discussion at government fora and key institutions like Uganda Bureau of Statistics, The Kenya ICT board as well the Ministries of Finance of the two governments are now our key partners. We also were able to leverage the opportunity the study gave to enrich our other projects with similar goals.
Our key finding is that although there was no clear link between open data and resource allocation, largely because of political economy factors, digital divide, policy incoherence among other factors, the potential for this link is apparent because of equally strong drivers of open data processes in both countries.
The dissemination event was graced by The Hon. Vincent Bagiire, Ugandan Member of Parliament and the chair of the parliamentary select committee on Science and ICT. Hon Bagiire thanked the researchers and their funders for pioneering such a study in Uganda and expressed hope that this can only open the way for open movements to become mainstream in Uganda and Kenya. A former founding director of Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) before he joined politics, Mr. Bagiire is well versed with Open data and ICT issues and their role in transparency and resource allocation. He invited the research team to present the findings to his committee.
Mr. Charles Lwanga Ntale, co-leader of the study in discussing the “Data revolution and implication for East Africa” highlighted the importance of understanding sociopolitical context and added that for Open data to have significant impact, it has to be about more than just data, but also nuance, translation of data into policy messages for action, and ensuring all interlocutors in the open data ecosystem work together.
The event provided a platform in which the variety of participants offered different perspectives to the open data debate and in the end helped increase the cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary understanding Open data, which is otherwise a relatively new concept in the region. A summary of the report was shared with the detailed report to follow.
Another dissemination is set for Nairobi, Kenya on June 19.
By Bernard Sabiti
Researcher, ODDC project. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Perspective of a Participant
It was a real privilege to have been invited to the dissemination of what turns out to be a very important study and to interact with a range of actors in what the report authors call the ‘Ecosytem’
- It hit me right through the heart that all players are squandering opportunity and resources to make better decisions in terms of resource allocation for poverty eradication. First, the huge demand for opening access to data which is already collected is not being matched by an enthusiastic gobbling up of this information. The data producers like The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) took the rest of us to task at not using available data. A UBOs representative claimed that local governments have as much as 70% of the data they need to plan effectively but the data is “ just lying there”.
- Governments were putting in place policies and legislation while at the sametime manoeuvre around them to deny people timely access to data and information, putting in place “standing orders” that make users to formally apply for and receive information. Those on the ground (a participant who had travelled from Kabarole District, 300km to the west) testified that it takes months to receive a reply and ultimately information may never be released. Thanks to what the researchers are calling ‘infomediaries’, some people users to give up until they get the data they are looking for and break it down for ordinary users.
- Policy and decision makers are abandoning credible data to base their decisions on political calculations which has weakened essence of planning and strategic and consistent resource allocation
- By preferring (even choosing) to work in silos rather than pulling together, members of the open data system undermine the possible benefits of the “sum of the whole”. This was graphically illustrated when individually we could not lift one of the participants but a number of us together were able to easily hoist him.
This study has raised issues that have far reaching implications. It calls for intensified efforts to get its key messages to the respective actors and to renew our collective commitment to push for change in practice and culture visavis joining the dots between demand for, use of, and impact of open data.
Mr Warren Nyamugasira moderated the dissemination event. He is the acting Executive Director of Development Research and Training