Public data now easier to find as open data unveils a user-friendly website

Public data now easier to find as open data unveils a user-friendly website

The Kenya Open Data Initiative now in its 4th year holds government data ranging from health, education, governance, population, budget to Kenya immigration trends
 
Nairobi, Tuesday, 18th August, 2015.Kenyans can now access more public data easily and faster. The Kenya Open Data Portal (KODI) (www.opendata.go.ke) turns four (4) with a new version of the web portal and a host of desirable changes in the number of data sets available, the visualization of the information and timely and interactive feedback to data consumers.
 
The portal, launched by former Kenya President, Hon. Mwai Kibaki primary goal is to maintain a comprehensive data transparency website that provides, a user friendly, one-stop access to data from government ministries, agencies and counties.The data,constituting government development, demographic, statistical and expenditure information is available in a digital format for researchers, media, policymakers, ICT developers and the general public with a view to promoting transparency, innovation and improving efficiency.
 
Today, the website has grown to provide more than 680 datasets from an initial of 200, in 2011 and hosts a variety of government data that include expenditure and resource allocations, education, health, energy, tourism, demographics studies and County Government specific data.
 
Opendata.go.ke has elicited much interest around the world from scholars who have shown how local entrepreneurs use the data to make better decisions that improve their business processes and profitability. This example and many more fulfill our objective of setting up the platform. As it expands and evolves over time, Kenya Open Data will spark innovation, improve efficiency, promote accountability and promote credibility in government projects among the public,” says Victor Kyalo, Chief Executive Officer, the ICT Authority, the implementing agency, for the KODI project.
 
The new mantra of the platform is the link between use of data to make better decisions and create solutions at individual, business and government level.
As the portal looks towards its growth, several strategies have been instituted to greatly increase usability, including:
  •  A budget app that makes it easy for citizens, officials and other stakeholders to use and interact with budget data and therefore enhancing transparency in budget transaction.
  • Data lens – a new tool to interact, explore and discover insights from data easily.  It makes it easy for citizens and others to get answers to their questions in a visual, intuitive way.
  • A fellows program where 8 fellows have been embedded in 3 government ministries and a county government to be able to help with data acquisition, information systems design and setting up of data desks. Already, 25 government agencies are sharing their data through the portal.
  • Expanded partnerships with data producers and users with the aim of increasing utilization of the data through outreach initiatives
  • Focus on Counties with County Data. Makes data specific to counties easier to find and is in the process of rolling out County Data Portals that will help users find the data they need. Some will be full-fledged sites, like Machakos, Nairobi and Kiambu counties which are live now and with time will introduce the full list of counties with equally functional portals.
The new drive has borne fruit with the latest one being in July 2015, when the portal was voted as a finalist in publishing open data in a global competition held by Bloomberg and the Open Data Institute in the United Kingdom. Kenya Open Data Portal was the second portal to be launched in Africa but is currently the leading open data platform in Africa and ranked among top 3 globally by Bloomberg for publishing public data.
 
“Experience elsewhere has shown that making data publicly available reduces costs, makes government more efficient and inspires productive collaborations with the private sector. In Kenya, we are starting to see the beginning of this as ICT developers policy makers and development partners in civil society use the KODI data to create useful applications, policies and programs for the community,” reports the Kenya Open Data Project Coordinator, Ms Linet Kwamboka.
Some of the notable applications emanating from the open data portal use include:
  • Medafricahttp://medafrica.org/) which gives citizens direct access to health information and services like doctors, Hospitals, Emergency services nearest to them saving on lives.
  • Hema Mobile App that uses masters facilities list on an app that enables you to track and locate health facilities also building the health of the community.
  • Ufahamu App a data visualization platform that provides a means of mapping data on maps establishes relationships using geoJSON technology by combining NASA geodata and health data from reliable open data repositories.
  • ZanaAfrica (http://www.zanaafrica.org/) a social enterprise initiative that makes and delivers sanitary towels to girls in primary schools therefore enabling more girls to be productive at school.
  • DataScience (www.datascience.co.ke) a software engineering company using data to develop big data analytics and research tools for business development.
“There has been over 44 million page views since the portal launched making the portal one of the highest and most accessed government site. There have been 2.6 million actual interactions with the data – downloads and embeds,” informs Kwamboka.
 
Making government information available in this way promotes the development of useful “apps” based on the data, encourages researchers and watchdog groups to use the data to make suggestions for improving government and life of Kenyans, and makes state agencies more efficient by allowing access to information.
As the portal celebrates its fourth year, there is already substantial data that is available and the public can use it to:
  • Be able to track and locate the health facilities closest to them. Additionally, they can find the hospitals that are appropriate to their needs as well as the category they fall under.  Data on distribution of health services creates the opportunity for more targeted investment in public health infrastructure – such as prioritizing new hospital construction in underserved areas.
  • Find the nature, type and effects of natural disasters that strike their local community thanks to a datasets that has more than 10 years of this kind of data.
  • Find the location of donor and government funded projects in their community as well as the stage of execution. This can be useful to ascertain the level of focus and investments that occur in their community.
  • Deduce the functional status of water resources in their county, which is useful to prepare well for periods without sufficient rainfall as well as make informed decisions on land purchases.
  • Explore trends in immigration in Kenya from the Reported Visitor Arrivals and Departures data between 1991 – 2014. This can be useful in planning for souvenir trade activities as well as promotion of the local tourist sites. It can also help investors make informed investment decisions.
  • Ascertain the distribution of government revenue made possible through National Revenues generated from tax and non-tax income streams covering 2005/06 To 2013/14. This is useful in capturing the trend of revenue collection as well as tracking one’s personal contribution to the government’s revenue.
  • Understand the HIV prevalence rate in their counties and the fraction of new infections who are children. This can be useful for planning and has been used by National Aids Control Council in allocation of antiretroviral therapies (ARTs).
The new constitution recognizes the right to public information under article 35, which states as follows:(1) Every citizen has the right of access to -(a) Information held by the State; and(b) Information held by another person and required for the exercise or protection of any right or fundamental freedom.(2) Every person has the right to the correction or deletion of untrue or misleading information that affects the person.(3) The State shall publish and publicise any important information affecting the nation.
 
Two bills, The Access to Information Act and Data Protection Act, are in parliament at the moment, and will further the right of the citizen to access public information.
 
“Access to information held by the state is a crucial component of democracy. It allows the public to be aware of governmental decisions that can impact the environment and individual lives. Access to information also allows the public to participate in critiquing and thereby improving governmental decision-making,” says Mr Kyalo.
 
In noting the challenges that users have faced over the years when interacting with the website the team has worked to improve overall user-experience by including such features as:
  • Open about analytics. This involves openly displaying site performance analytics, showing the total number of public datasets, charts, maps, views loaded as well as the no of datasets per main category.
  • Open about data and the reality of data release cycle. Data release calendar to inform when new datasets become available.
  • User Views: World-class visualizations made by the public (by users who can register for free on the Open Data portal). Show case interesting visualizations made by users who use the portal on a daily basis.
  • Integrating the Open data Blog with the portal. A blog that moves beyond data to information and helps citizens make sense of data, by presenting it in a narrative format that combines text and visualizations. Experts, Journalists, analysts can help tell the story about open data its use, and its impact.
  • New Interactive Visualizations with Data Lens Pages Includes a number of multiple lens viewable on a single page that are interactive and dynamically linked to any user and can simply interact with and look at the parts of data they are interested in. For Example, a lens can contain a map, a few bar charts, timelines, and search bar in one single view.
The project though has not been without its challenges.  The greatest one being lack of awareness by the general public and various stakeholders on the availability of this resource that can be used to improve decision making and enrich the economy.
 
“While we still face some resistance in data publishing by the various government institutions we have put in place measures to mitigate this which is why we have devised the new strategies that will allow us to engage other government institutions better.” says Kwamboka.
 
As it is, the future of the project is unfazed, and the team looks forward to providing better and more up to date information, enactment of the access to information and data protection laws and more partnerships with institutions to help popularize the use of open data.
 
“This amazing resource is available to the public for free. People should know this and take advantage. It’s the way to making better decisions for oneself, the community and country,” concludes Kwamboka.
 
ENDS
 
About Kenya Open Data
 
The Kenya Open Data (www.opendata.go.ke) is an initiative of the ICT Authority launched on July 8 2011, by former President Hon. Mwai Kibaki, making key government data freely available to the public through a single online portal.
 
The website is a user-friendly platform that allows for visualizations and downloads of the data and easy access for software developers.
 
Kenya is the first developing country to have an open government data portal, the first in sub-Saharan Africa and second on the continent after Morocco. The initiative has been widely acclaimed globally as one of the most significant steps Kenya has made to improve governance and implement the new Constitution’s provisions on access to information.
 
Kenya’s information is a national asset, and this site is about sharing it. The goal of opendata.go.ke is to make core government development, demographic, statistical and expenditure data available in a useful digital format for researchers, policymakers, ICT developers and the general public.
 
For more information Contact: Phyllis Nyambura, e: pnyambura@ict.go.ke  Cell: 0700396433
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