The real power of Information technology, my take on open government

April 7, 2011 — Leave a comment

Where is the money in IT? I get asked this question severally by many who think that to make money using information technology, requires massive amounts of investment tantamount to what they have seen mobile network operators and other big players in the technology infrastructure and services sector splash in a bid to tap into what has been tipped as Africa’s largest growth potential – the need for value added information and communication.

Selectively settling on what is fast becoming a hot area, that of government opening up its data, let us explore the application of information technology.

At a recent meet up (that was hosted by Nokia) with Permanent secretary Dr. Ndemo as the keynote (more like onlynote) speaker at the Ihub that focused on leveraging the governments open data, it became apparent that many developers – who were the bulk of attendees are racking their brains trying to figure out how to best use and monetize the soon to be available data or the sprinkling of what is already available. The predominant thought process  was however focused on simply building mobile and web applications based on the data. While profitable and sustainable business models may be difficult to craft for data that will be available to a myriad of users, my take is that local developers should look beyond the applications and focus more on intelligence derived from the data mining of the large amounts of data that will soon available.

The insights that can be derived from combining various data sets can reveal opportunities that lie outside technology, and this could be where the biggest benefit of IT lies for our country as we can identify trends and needs that will enable us to tackle issues such as food security, healthcare delivery and others that form the agenda for Vision 2030.

Information is valuable only when and where it makes sense to end-users. This is the biggest need that needs to be addressed in Kenya today. Yes, the process of data mining will generate revenue, but look at the bigger picture and see the real impact that IT can and will have in our country.

What if you were able to predict product demand for agricultural produce based on information collected over the past ten years? And would it not be grand to track the growth in value or revenue potential of the said product, as well as the potential market based say on census data? If you could tell that demand for fish is growing faster than that of chicken, would that change your strategy? Can we predict how many primary schools we will need in Nyeri county in the next five years? How will that help entrepreneurs in the education sector capitalize on the opportunity?

Information technology is just the start, it’s the enabler that will inject new growth to a myriad of traditional industry sectors. Watch the space.

Mbugua Njihia

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An Africa based entrepreneur in the pursuit of opportunities without regard to resources currently controlled striving to build services that have real-world value for my beloved continent and beyond while having fun along the way.