Last week saw the launch of the Open Government Data initiative at the KICC, with various datasets made available from the government to the public. There was a good showcase of various uses and adaptations of the available data to meet the growing need for information by the citizen.
As Kenya claims it place as a pioneer in opening up its data, there is still need to understand the bigger picture as well as what it will take for us to fully actualize the potential of the data that has been made available. Granted, not all the taps have been open and that will take some time for sure as other ministries and government agencies work on sanitizing and formatting their data but value can still be derived from the available data.
To ensure the success of the open data initiative we must look at the big picture and see the different permutations that are possible. In a round table held at the iHub in Nairobi with Tariq Khokhar the open data evangelist from the World Bank, it was made apparent that open data innovations need to have an emotive connection with target users. The process of open data innovation usually begins with a lot of tinkering and creation of fun concepts and visualization and one may see many hackathons and competitions based around the data. With time these innovations need to be tweaked to connect positively with citizens for them to have any longevity.
Toys bring excitement when new, but they get used and discarded. Tools have a perpetual value attached to them and will always meet a need and remain relevant. The resultant services based on open data must add such value that the citizen will actually feel sad if the services were not to be made available any more. This sort of value can only be achieved through partnerships that add a mix of differentiation to the service mix offered. The license under which the government released its data allows for both commercial and non commercial use of the data, which means you can actually generate revenue from it.
Value derived from open data may sometimes not be obvious but can be summed up as actualization of savings from insights gathered leading to more efficient processes , the creation of wealth by creating new services that generate revenue and having a more informed citizenry leading to better participation in democracy and governance.
Some examples of services from the UK such as “Where did my money go” and “Who did they meet” show an enlightened citizen is better able to participate in progressive politics. Private companies such as Datamarket have also gone ahead to build services that layer different data sets that reveal market intelligence that businesses and investors find useful and are willing to pay for.
We asked for open data, it’s now here with us. Lets built solid tools and not toys.