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Uncategorized By Jessica Colaço / July 3, 2011

Promoting transparency through open data


The Government of Kenya will launch a new Government Open Data Portal on July 8 that will for the first time make several large government datasets available to the general public in an easy to search and view format.

The web portal will allow citizens to search and display national and county level data in graphs and maps and allow for easy comparison and analysis between datasets.

For web and software developers, the portal will avail data in useable formats like cvs, Excel and will even include APIs for each dataset.

The portal will be one of the first and largest government data portals in sub-Saharan Africa. With this launch, Kenya will become a leader among developing countries in the adoption of open data—a movement that is gathering momentum globally.

What is open data?

Public information and searchable information are two different things. Much public data is already available by law but it’s often not usable because it is in a format that is not easy to find, use, and re-use. Published PDF files do not constitute “open data” and are not helpful to large-scale users. To be open, data must be:

  • easily found through search engines (meta-tagged)
  • available in machine readable formats (CSV, XML, APIs not PDF)
  • accessible by third party tools/applications (interoperable)
  • allow others to use and re-use for non-commercial and commercial use (e.g Creative Commons Licences)

Open Data not only increases transparency and accountability, it promotes greater efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of public services by allowing users to easily consume and interpret data.

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Author : Jessica Colaço

Jessica Colaço is currently the Director of Partnerships at iHub. She was the Founding Manager between 2010 and 2011 at iHub and Research Director between 2011 and 2013 at iHub Research. She is passionate about Innovation, Research, Mobile and Robotics Technology, Mentorship and Entrepreneurship in Kenya as she uses her position at iHub to court local, regional and international stakeholders to adopt Kenyan-made and African-made solutions. As an upcoming angel investor, she courts local and international investors to invest in great tech ideas and companies at idea and concept stage. She is also a Mobile and Robotics Tech Evangelist, Co-Founder of WMIAfrica and AkiraChix, ISOC-Kenya Chapter, Treasurer, ACM-W Nairobi Chapter Chair, TED Global Fellow 2009 and upcoming Guitarist. She was named one of the top 40 women under 40 years in Kenya's business scene by Business Daily on 2009, 2011 and 2012. Her endeavour is to put Kenya and Africa on the map for technology achievements and spur innovation within the country and continent! She blogs at:

  • Links zum Thema E-Demokratie vom 4. Juli 2011 » Links » at 13:37:30PM Monday, July 4, 2011

    [...] Kenia plant den Start eines Open Data Portal zur Veröffentlichung von Regierungsdaten am 8. Juli 2011. [...]

  • Joel Selanikio at 21:38:06PM Monday, July 4, 2011

    Getting the Kenyan government to even set up a government data portal is an enormous step forward in establishing norms for transparency, and I congratulate those involved.

    I also think that your list of four criteria to define “open” area a good start, but they really define “usable”, rather than “open”. What you are leaving off is some measure of completeness: are the citizens seeing 5% of the total data or 95%? Maybe we can call it the “transparency fraction”?

    The end goal, after all, is not to have the Kenyan government (or any government) release 25% of its important data in perfectly shareable, searchable, and machine-readable format, but rather for ALL of Kenya’s government data to be available for citizen scrutiny AND in usable format.

    The difficult task won’t be to get Kenya to meta-tag the fraction of data it does release and make it available as csv; it will be to get Kenya to release the really important and controversial stuff, like politician’s expenses, and documents related to bidding for government projects, etc. And to have some idea of whether Kenya’s citizens are seeing 25% or 90% of the good stuff. That is, what is the “transparency fraction”?

  • George at 22:06:25PM Monday, July 4, 2011

    Please correct this.
    1. CSV and not cvs.
    2. What is Excel? Did you mean .XLS? I think it would be better to keep the data in pure ascii formats(CSV) and the users can utilise whatever third party tools they have. (kick the Microsoft == computers crap!
    3. What do you mean by API for each dataset? Do you mean an API supporting different programming languages. I bet is should be implemeted as a RESTful interface!
    4. Most public data? vs much public data?
    5. How does open data really increase accountability?

  • The State of e-Governance/e-Government in Africa | Afrinnovator at 12:01:41PM Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    [...] EmailThe Kenyan government is all set to unveil its Open Data initiative, an aim at opening up it’s repositories of varied datasets to the public for public consumption [...]

  • Kenya launches Open Government Data Portal » The Hybrid Self at 13:09:27PM Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    [...] *iHub Nairobi’s Innovation Hub [...]

  • Open Data Catches on in Kenya | Financial Publicity at 19:49:53PM Friday, July 15, 2011

    [...] levels in the United States. With the launch of Open Kenya, Africa will have its own story of promoting transparency through open data to celebrate, learn from and [...]

  • Open Data Catches on in Kenya – Forbes (blog) | Get News, Articles and other Informations at 14:07:27PM Sunday, July 17, 2011

    [...] levels in the United States. With the launch of Open Kenya, Africa will have its own story of promoting transparency through open data to celebrate, learn from and [...]

  • OGDI V2.0 « live-to-code at 10:00:13AM Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    [...] page and saw a wall post of a friend. It says “Kenya leads by launching Africa’s 1st OpenData portal opening gov to hackivists & social entrepreneurs”, and today I found out that they [...]

  • The State of e-Governance/e-Government in Africa | Blog.Avi at 11:52:08AM Monday, November 19, 2012

    [...] Kenyan government is all set to unveil its Open Data initiative; its aim at opening up the repositories of varied datasets to the public for public [...]


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