On 8th of July 2011 the Government of Kenya launched Open Government Data Portal. The portal is ranked as the only and the largest government data portals in Sub-Saharan Africa. It has over 160 data sets including complete 2009 Kenyan national census, national budget data, national and county expenditure, information on health care, schools and many more. Simply put,the Kenyan Government Open data portal is a goldmine of information for everyone in Kenya and across the border. That is why researchers, policymakers, ICT developers and the general public are all dancing with joy for the dawn of what would have been unthinkable some years back.
Believe it or not for many years data and information was considered “secret” by the political ruling class in Kenya and has been used as a weapon to further their agenda. It makes sense when you consider the long history of ineffectiveness and the widespread corruption within the public sector. With the open data portal, it is expected that openness will be the guiding principle for all. Open data expands accountability and governance. The following is one of the reasons listed on the site for making the Government data available:
“ It’s the foundation for improving transparency and accountability: the data includes detailed, timely information on the operations of government, the results of the work it does and the opportunities that exist for improving the country.”
For the ordinary Kenyans who expect better performance from the people managing the government affairs, this marks the beginning of the exciting time for them . The process started with the passing of new constitution last year. Since then it has been what one would call open everything: open vetting of the new Chief Justice, Open vetting of the Judges, the Military Chiefs and many more to come
The users of the open data portal can do many things: : maps to explore , interactive charts and tables for a deeper understanding, and via an API developers can download raw data to build applications for mobile and web.
The management of the data portal is in the hand of the hard working people at Kenya ICT Board in partnership with World Bank. “For the first time ever, people in our communities will be empowered to choose the best schools for their children, locate the nearest health facility that meets their needs, and use regional statistics to lobby their constituency representative for better infrastructure and services in their county,” said Paul Kubuko, CEO of the Kenya ICT Board.
The site is powered by Socrata, the leading developer and provider of Open Data Services according their website.
The over 160 datasets are organised under six subheadings: education, energy, health, population, poverty and water and sanitation. I took sometime to explore the portal, keenly following each subheading:
One issue which is most talked about in Kenya is what it takes to have knowledge based economy. With information available under Education category on the protal it is easy to tell whether the country is heading in the right direction.
You can tell the percetage distribution of population (15+years) by ability to read and write, further broken down to sex and region (for each of the Kenyan district). More important for this discussion is the Percentage distribution of Population (3+ years) by Highest School level Completed.
You want to know what Kenyans use to light their homes, the dataset under the category energy gives it to you all. In urban areas most people use electricity but as you move to the rural areas you come across pressure lamps, tin lamps, lanterns, gas lamps, fuel wood, solar panels and others. The dangers of the Fuel wood which is the most commonly used in rural areas is highlited by a grapgh showing the incidence of respiratory illness vs use of Fuel Wood.
I think a working nation needs to be healthy all the time. The data about that is now available, with the first thing being the number of health facilities in the country, followed by Health spending per capita, by county. Actually i am impressed by the depth of information under the health category, you can get information about the population distribution by incidence of sickness in the last four weeks in each of the county and mmore. Cool.
Kenyan population as per 2009 census was officially recorded as 38, 610,097. Since then there have been many changes, taking into account the new borns and the people who have died in between. Well, officially the population is still at the same number according the data portal. That aside, the portal is a clear documentation of Kenyan population history dating back to 1990. Better still you get it by Rural, Urban, Gender and County estimates.
This is hard to define and measure. Let me just say Poverty is defined to include inadequacy of income and deprivation of basic needs and rights, and lack of access to productive assets as well as to social infrastructure and markets. The 1997 Welfare Monitoring Survey estimated the absolute poverty line at Kshs 1,239 ($14) per person per month and Kshs 2,648 ($30) respectively for rural and urban areas. The mostly used phrase is “people living below a dollar a day” (Kshs.89). With the current food shortage in the Somalia and the larger Horn of Africa, that could be absolutely Zero Dollar a day.
The good news is, the portal has all the information about poor people in Kenya per county based on KIHBS (Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey) data for Constituencies in 2005/2006. Now it is upon the policy makers and all Kenyans to work hard and remove the unnecessary barriers to human and economic development.
Water and Sanitation.
Basically it is true that number of people with access to a cell phone in Kenya is higher than the number of people with a clean toilet and even clean drinking water. The ministry of Water has faced numerous accusations of corruption which has hindered drilling of boreholes in different parts of the country. Now the public can see for themselves the progress of the much talked about drilling of the boreholes project.
There you have it but before i sign off..
The big debate many Kenyans had before the launch was about how open the open data was going to be. From what we have seen not bad and there is hope for more
During Live Chat with Dr.Ndemo Perment Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication, streamed by World Bank Africa, the PS was asked whether there is a legal framework in the govt to ensure that the ministries actually provide the data. And the answer was straight forward, “Our new constitution has a provision for freedom of information “