This blog post was written by Justin Yarga. 

A modest day, but a rich day: Open Data Day in Burkina Faso has helped advance the uptake open data by the open data ecosystem and also helped explore new areas for opening up data. And this time, it is the health sector that was the subject of focus for the open data activists’ community. Let’s go back over a day of discussions and heated debates around open data.

The atmosphere: In the amphitheatre of the Institut Supérieur Privé Polytechnique ISPP, a private high education Institute located at one end of the new town of the capital city, the atmosphere is warm on this Saturday morning. Passionate debates of small groups of people gathered in the amphitheatre  in at certain times make you believe that this a day of classes. An atmosphere created by passion, but also laughter. In fact, when we were talking loudly about health and data, especially where to find the data, an inspired participant came up and thought we were looking at agriculture and open data instead (just imagine). Well, the open data and agriculture parenthesis were closed shortly afterwards but the confusion made here is easy to interpret because open data in Burkina Faso is moving simultaneously in many directions, from agriculture to health. We are a country, the first in Francophone Africa, to engage strongly in the process of opening up data. And it was important to interest more people in this fashionable concept that is the open data.

Recap. Burkina Faso’s open data community has once again succeeded in attracting new sectors and new people in the process of opening up data. The celebration of the Open Data Day took place around the themes of opening up data in health and energy sectors, achieving good results, particularly in terms of open data and energy.

Who were at the Open Data Day Event?

One of the objectives in participating in the Open Data Day was first to present the existing ecosystem in the area of Open Data to the various stakeholders. And then, to build and strengthen partnerships to advance open data in the entire data ecosystem  in Burkina Faso.

Many different stakeholders, active in the field of open data who attended the event were presented, including the “Initiative pour un Burkina Ouvert” (Open Burkina), Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) Burkina Faso, BEOG NEERE (For a better future), Geek Developers Network (GDN), Burkina Open Data Initiative (BODI), Open Street Map (OSM) and the Fablab Ouagalab. This is a small group yet representative of the entities that are leading the open data movement in Burkina Faso. We can say that since the first meeting held in April 2014 in Jokkolabs, the small community has grown and contributed to an entire open data ecosystem in Burkina Faso. There was also some participants, students from the medical department of the University of Ouagadougou and health professionals, many of whom discovered the concept of open data for the first time.


What did we talk about?

The importance of open data and open data opportunities. The day began with an updating participants about open data. Many of the students and health professionals discovered the concept of open data through the introductory presentation given by Idriss Tinto, Ambassador of Open Knowledge Foundation in Burkina Faso. The presentation stressed the importance of open data for democracy with the edifying example of open elections, and opportunities in areas such as education, agriculture and health. After this theoretical phase, the day continued with more hands-on workshops.

Open data in the health sector: The first workshop focused on open data and health. The idea behind this workshop was to present the opportunities offered by open data in health, to identify key data to be collected, to consider data reusability and finally to lay the foundations of a strategy for opening data in the sector. The discussions revealed many opportunities with open data in the health sector. In addition, they also revealed something very important: the reluctance of actors in the health sector, including students …. fearing intrusion in their trade. The best example to illustrate that point was the idea to open the list of drugs and indications (in which cases the drug must be used, or not used). The students were afraid it would push patients to self-medicate, and the indications have finally been withdrawn from the list of keys information to open, for the moment. Untitled-1024x576

A citizen-based mapping project: The second workshop of the day focused on a power cuts mapping project in the city of Ouagadougou. This project, supported by Open Burkina, was presented to participants. This ambitious project aims to enable Ouagalais (citizens of Ouagadougou) to adapt to the discomfort of the power cuts by giving them quality information out of data collected from the electricity supply company. For the least, we can say the project has received valuable contributions which will enable it to evolve and take shape very soon.

Lessons learned: Anytime and anywhere where there are discussions about opening data there is also some reluctance. And the organizers of the Open Data Day 2016 in Burkina have done well to invite professionals and students in the health sector to discuss Open Data and health. To say that, when you are interested in a given sector, it is important to involve from the outset professionals of that sector to understand their fears, their reluctance and to move forward together through constructive debates. Sometimes, they are the first allies as data producers and even the beneficiaries of open data. Proof? The NENDO project which have been presented at Open Data Day was made possible thanks to the data collected by a professional of the education sector in the municipality.

At the end, in the global wave of celebration the Open Data Day 2016 (257 events), on Saturday, March 5, 2016 all the participants acknowledged that Burkina Faso has proudly made it.


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360Giving Data Lab and Learning Manager, ex OKF International Community Coordinator