The Connected Gov summit happened awhile back at the Coast (here and here) and there were showcases of what government is doing to mobilize or e-enable government services. I do recall from the live twitter feed that there was a call to government from entrepreneurs, to open up data access to allow “us” – the techpreneures to build services layered on the available open data.
A question was raised concerning the privacy of the said data, but feedback from gov…cant quite remember the rep, clarified that 95% of government generated data is essentially free public information. So what the problem then?
The problem lies in the legacy systems in which this data is stored. Interesting thing is that the same call is being made and heard around the world, with governments rolling out initiatives to open up their data.
Since independence we have lived in a culture of secrecy with information and data silos all over the place in government. This has led to information hoarding and corruption as certain elements would leverage the lack of information access to extort money…yet 95% of this data is public info and should therefore be in the public domain. Accountability is reduced and belief in a system that benefits the rich powerful and connected is reinforced.
What would an Open Government Initiative mean / do?
It would empower developers and entrepreneurs with the data and the APIs they need to build innovative solutions that would solve the mwananchi’s problem. No need to wait for government ministries to upgrade their age old systems…some still running on assembler and cobol and costing a ” bomb” to maintain. They…we…I… can simply build our own apps and choose the optimal channel for service delivery.
I do know that the Public Service Transformation Department under the Office of the Prime Minister, is working towards getting a unified framework for the mobilization of government services and I am keen to see the results of the initiative. It will be a great leap forward to see government agencies take immediate, specific steps to achieve milestones in transparency, participation, and collaboration.
The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government.
Transparency promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the Government is doing. Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise so that their government can make policies with the benefit of information that is widely dispersed in society. Collaboration improves the effectiveness of Government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the Government, across levels of government, and between the Government and private institutions – Peter R. Orszag
In the US an open data initiative, data.gov, was launched about one year ago with 47 datasets of government information and already numerous applications have been built to leverage the information and provide value added services to the larger population
A successful implementation of Open Government in Kenya will greatly reduce the cost to government of rolling out and maintaining the services and deliver a win win proposition to private sector and gov. For me it would be a fulfilling project to build services on mobile that give real world value and make me some dosh at the same time…opportunities galore.
Now lets hope that we are not derailed by matters political.