Open space for technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in Nairobi.


iHub Research By Leo Mutuku / April 16, 2013

Understanding the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Regions


Understanding the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Regions

What really results from deploying open data apps in the society and particularly in grass-root communities? Why then should we encourage the technology community to explore the business and revenue opportunities that are presented by open data? On what evidential basis,are we demanding from the government (and other organizations) to maintain open data portals?

While conversations and research work around open data is relatively new and mainly focused on a country’s readiness to adopt open government, there arises new research challenges with regards to the impacts of existing and upcoming open data initiatives.Many proponents of open data are using hypothetical justifications as to why open data is useful in promoting transparency and increasing service delivery- as a result of increased access to information.

In countries such as Kenya, literature suggests that advocates of open data have been painting a dreamy picture of the benefits of open data without hard facts on the real results that open data has produced. Subsequently, there have been articles to the effect that the Open Data Initiative is dead, and that big data is all hype and has no realized impact.This is because there are few attempts, if any, to really show how open data has changed anyone’s life; what sustainable impacts it has had at scale in society; and if it has provided a good business model case for entrepreneurs, companies and government to wish to explore further.

We believe that if we can provide empirical evidence on Open Data achieving at least some of its objectives, this will provide the necessary push for our government and local organizations to proactively maintain the existing platforms and even catalyze their evolution to an all-open access repository.

In a previous post we announced our new project to study the emerging impacts of Open Data as a result of intermediary interventions through technology applications in Kenya. iHub Research will jump to fill the gaps in literature on emerging impacts of open data in developing countries in a monitoring and evaluation study on deployment of open data technology tools. The main objectives of this research are therefore:

  1. Understand the role that technology intermediaries play in facilitating impacts from Open Data– what is the usage and penetration of these apps; what sources of information are more valuable to citizens?
  2. Assess the value of these technology interventions which stimulate community uses of Open Data– is it by improved transparency, accountability, service delivery or citizen participation; do they address social issues and empower citizens to make informed decisions?

This study will be conducted in the following steps:

  • Preliminary literature review on the state of open data in Kenya and how other countries quantify impact of their Open Data initiatives
  • Active deployment of select open data appssuch as those deployed by Code4Kenya etc. and field research to monitor usage of these apps
  • Dashboard analytics of the apps and possibly, related open data portals to also monitor usage of the apps during the deployments.

We hope that by taking part in this research activity we will contribute to the development and testing of common methods of assessing context, strengths and weaknesses of Open Data over time. The research is part of a network, which will aggregate and compare results of similar research activities across other developing regions in order to prepare international frameworks for assessing the value of Open Data.

This research, coordinated by the World Wide Web Foundation and funded by grant 107075 from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC, Canada), will be conducted for a period of nine months, beginning April 2013.


Tags , ,

Author : Leo Mutuku

Leo leads the data science lab at iHub Research. She conducts research on open data, data science and visualisation, design research methods, market and investment research.

  • tandaabiashara | Understanding the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Regions at 09:50:49AM Thursday, April 18, 2013

    [...] transparency and increasing service delivery- as a result of increased access to information. Source var dd_offset_from_content = 40; var dd_top_offset_from_content = [...]

  • victor at 10:04:14AM Friday, April 19, 2013

    This is a nice idea. How can one participate in it if interested?

  • Leo Mutuku at 16:50:47PM Thursday, April 25, 2013

    Hi, kindly send an email to and we can discuss how you can contribute to this project.

  • Open Data in Developing Countries -Monitoring and Evaluation study on Kenyan OD technologies at 08:38:53AM Monday, May 20, 2013

    [...] past six weeks, iHub Research has been conducting an ongoing Monitoring and Evaluation study on the impact of open data applications and technologies in promoting access to information . The focus for this study include technologies born out of the Code4Kenya [...]

  • Steven at 11:20:25AM Monday, May 20, 2013

    This is certainly an interesting study that will provide useful information especially given the clamor and push for access to info (Freedom of Info Act, etc). From your general description of the study however, it seems the bias is on “app driven” utility of content of OpenData – have you considered “non-app” driven utility especially because you label this as an impact study?

  • Leo Mutuku at 11:46:19AM Sunday, June 2, 2013

    Hi Steven,

    The specific objectives of this study is to understand the impact of tech tools, precisely because there has been a push for app -driven consumption of open data and no documentation of how impactful this approach is beyond the US and UK etc. Our colleagues at Jesuit Hakimani Research Centre are, however looking at the non-app approach and I am willing to put you in touch with them. email me:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

{{ theme:js file="jquery.fittext.js" }}