Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI) Heralds a New Era for Access to Information
Author: Usha Venkatachallam
Date: 14th November 2011
2011 has been a great year for Kenya in the areas of access to information and open data.
First, in April 2011, Kenya Gazette Notices dating back to 1906 were digitized and made available online through a partnership between Kenya Law Review and Google Kenya.
Then, in July, Kenya partnered with Google Books to release 60 years of Kenya’s Hansard (the official report of parliamentary proceedings) in an easily accessible and searchable online format.
July also saw the launch of the Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI) with the goal of making “core government development, demographic, statistical and expenditure data available in a useful digital format for researchers, policymakers, ICT developers and the general public.”
KODI makes available large data sets from the Kenyan government (e.g., census, public expenditure, data from health and education ministries) and the World Bank (e.g., development indicators) in a user-friendly website for the public and data access via APIs for software developers, all developed on the Socrata platform.
These initiatives allow Kenya to take large strides in fulfilling its constitutional promise of access to information as a citizen’s fundamental right. It is now in the hands of community groups and software developers to analyze, visualize, make meaning, create knowledge, trigger civic actions, and enable social change with the available data. If not, open data and access to information will remain empty promises without any social impact.
Kenya has a vibrant technology for social development community (case in point: ushahidi and M-PESA) that is already stepping up to the challenge. It has only been a few months since KODI launched, but there already are a few projects that are using this data in innovative ways for the benefit of the community. A sample:
- Kenya Public Expenditure Portal: Review spending of Constituency Development Funds (CDF) at county level
- Virtual Kenya: Visualization of MPs (Member of Parliament) who are willing/unwilling to pay their taxes
- Msema Kweli: Mobile application to track Community Development Funds (CDF).
- Google Public Data Explorer: Trends in government expenditure for social spending, physical infrastructure, and other spending based on data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics
- Huduma: Fix my constituency platform for citizens to demand social services from the government.
We will keep an eye (a very-excited-eye to be precise) on developments in this front and bring more news to this blog. Stay tuned!