Disseminating the Power of Information: Kenya Open Data Initiative, 2011-2012
Focus: Getting the News Out/Managing Expectations
Type: Case Studies
Author: Rushda Majeed
Keywords: Bitange Ndemo, digital, information and communications technology, applications, transparency, corruption, ICT Board, open government, open data
When Bitange Ndemo became permanent secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communications in 2005, he was well aware of the difficulty Kenyans faced when they tried to get information from the government. He knew that easier access to government data on topics ranging from demographics to education could help spur innovation in business and technology and help drive the country’s economic growth. The Official Secrets Act under former President Daniel arap Moi had long prevented civil servants from sharing government data, and for the most part, the trend had continued since the 2002 election of President Mwai Kibaki. But in 2011, Ndemo won Kibaki’s approval to create an Internet portal that would serve as a one-stop shop for government census, economic, health and education data. With Kibaki’s support, Ndemo persuaded other ministries to allow access to the data, and he assembled a volunteer task force of computer programmers, data experts and ministry and World Bank officials to build the website and upload information. After the site—opendata.go.ke—went online in July 2011, the ministry started taking crucial steps to ensure the system’s effectiveness by training journalists in how to use the data in their reporting, by encouraging software developers to build applications that manipulated the data to explore trends, and by working to streamline the continuing flow of information to the site from government institutions. The case highlights Ndemo’s efforts to open Kenya’s government to the country’s citizens and the world.