Kenya Open data Should be Presented and Marketed as Open for all

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Above was a question put forward to the  Kenya Citizen Media panel at Global Voices summit in Nairobi. The question made me think hard on how open data has been marketed and presented to the Kenyan public. There is the perception that open data is for the techies or developers. Kenya open data has been presented as meant for the techies or developers. Out which they should make cool apps for the general population.. I think this is wrong and I know I will have to get myself to another heated discussion with one Linet Kwamboka( @g33kmate ) who is heading the project at ICT Board.

Open data is data that is freely available and re-usable without restriction – technical or legal. As far as that definition is concern, Kenya open data is really open but the problem is the lack of usage, making it lose the purpose which it is meant to serve. On one hand I would say that it is hard to understand Kenyans. Before the launch of open data, people were complaining on how hard it is to get the info about different facets of Kenya, and now that it is there, nobody is using it. But on the other hand I have issue with the way the ICT Board and the Government in general have been going about in presenting it to the people. It is great, and understandable that the ICT Board is targeting the developers, when comes to open data but I think the approach should be ..ALL.  Open data should combine all aspect of open access, open standards, open architecture and open communities. With that you get away to involve the whole society at every level

When one opens opendata.go.ke, there are three intro captions, but the following is a darling of many:

The Kenya Open Data Initiative seeks to foster an innovation eco-system around Government data and is giving developers a chance to interact with the data, be able to use it and create interesting mash up and innovative applications.

The problem of tying open data to the so called innovation, is that you get everyone confused and start to think so hard. Innovation is over used word in Kenya to the point where it is now confusing people.  The developers will continue looking at the site and thinking that they have to come up with something which has never been seen before..Innovate!.. And while they are doing that the open data remains idle. How about involving bloggers, how about involving teachers, how about involving health workers , how about involving farmers, how about involving fishermen, how about involving musicians!!

In terms of access , Linet once told me that many Kenyans actually access the site. Meaning Kenya has the highest source of traffic to the site but in terms of usage , the people from outside Kenya are the ones taking advantage of the site.  People should not be surprised by that considering what is happening  around the world where Open data initiatives and activities are on the move.

Currently hundreds of open data experts and enthusiasts from more than 50 countries  taking part on  International Open Government Data Conference (IOGDC) —a look at the impact and promise of open data in cities, countries and institutions around the world. The twenty panel discussions in Washington July 10-12  are focusing on open data policies, technologies, and the power of putting open data to work.

At the Conference  Moldova and Kenya will share both their experiences and their challenges with peers from the open data community and discover the best ways to build demand for government data… Great, and when it is over I would love to see ICT Board partner with BAKE (Bloggers) to use and spread the word.

What is your opinion on the topic?
Kennedy Kachwanya
Lead Blogger at Kachwanya.com
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Kennedy Kachwanya is a technology blogger interested in mobile phones both smart and dumb, mobile apps, mobile money, social media, startups ecosystem and digital Savannah. New media must not forget the strength of old tech.
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