Harro Riedstra via web
Akvo participated in the Francophone African Open Data Conference (CAFDO) in Ouagadougou and the Africa Open Data Conference (AODC) in Accra in the summer of 2017. Akvo was a partner of the CAFDO and contributed with a session on the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). At the AODC Akvo gave a similar session on IATI with a focus on “How to make IATI data useful”, also explaining about Akvo RSR as an IATI publication tool. In addition, Akvo lead a session on how to work towards open data in the water sector, specifically from a government data point of view.
Both conferences testified to the enthusiasm with which the international community is stressing the potential of Open Data for Development in Africa. The complementary role that government data, NGO data and private sector data can and have to play in order to bridge the data gaps came forward as a key point. Especially because most governments don’t have the financial, human or technical resources to put in place continuous collection, analysis and maintenance of data across different sectors.
In previous years, the focus was on understanding what open data is. Now, the accent is on open data initiatives: what’s the use of open data? The main message was that open data is a gateway for increasing accountability, transparency and informed decision-making. In parallel, there is an impressive amount of open data initiatives, mostly centered around governmental policies, humanitarian disaster response, civic participation and transparency.
Some of the most well-known examples represented at the two conferences are: OpenStreetMap (https://www.openstreetmap.org/) ; Government data portals like https://data.gouv.ci/, https://data.gov.bf, and http://data.gov.ma/fr; Code for Africa (https://codeforafrica.org/); Humanitarian data exchange (https://data.humdata.org/); and Open Data Journalism initiatives like CFI (http://www.cfi.fr/en/project/opendata-media), Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism (http://wscij.org/), and Premium Times.
However, both from the demand as from the supply side it became clear that the general concept is well understood, but that organizations on the ground struggle with the practical implementation. On the one hand, little is known about solid use cases. Although NGOs and CSOs seem to be ahead of the race, private companies and government organizations are unaware of existing open data sources and lack the knowledge about how to harness open data for their benefit. On the other hand, data producers lack the knowledge to publish data that is understandable, usable and accessible.
It is exactly the processes of “capture (continuous data collection) – understand (analysis and maintenance of data) – share (make data usable and accessible)” that need to be consolidated in order to build effective data infrastructures and eventually benefit from the full potential of open data.