Open Knowledge International is a member of Open Data for Development (OD4D), a global network of leaders in the open data community, working together to develop open data solutions around the world. In collaboration with the OD4D program, Open Knowledge International coordinates the Africa Open Data Collaboration Fund which is designed to provide seed support to empower Africa’s emerging open data civic organisations and entrepreneurs.
Almost a year ago in Dar es Salaam, the first Africa Open Data Conference brought together information activists, government officials and technologists to push forward an ambitious agenda for open data on the continent. The two-day conference highlighted several opportunities and challenges for open data in Africa with a general consensus being that Africa only stands to gain from both actively engaging with and shaping the data revolution.
The conference ended with members of the Open Data for Development (OD4D) network setting up the Africa Open Data Collaboration (AODC) Fund to provide seed funding to innovative civil society organisations interested in using or producing open data. Some of the areas selected to be supported by the fund were data-driven journalism, community-focused data collection using open data tools, government budgets and spending and ICT skills building.
As members of the growing Africa Open Data community met recently in Nairobi on August 17th and 18th for the East Africa Open Data Festival, it is only fitting to provide an update of the work that recipient organisations have done so far with the AODC Fund. The following projects are currently being managed by Open Knowledge International (OKI).
HeHe Labs, a mobile technology organisation focused on developing socially-relevant applications, has been working on the HeHe Labs Code Clubs project which aims to enhance research and collaboration among students by training embedded fellows. Despite no direct use of Open Data during this fellowship training, HeHe Labs is interested in incorporating these skills into the on-going learning of its current and future fellows. Fellows’ technical skills also present an avenue to build the scarce open data expertise across the continent. HeHe Labs has also created the InventEd platform to foster collaboration and research among youth and are currently working with both public and private organisations including universities to scale up it adoption.
Some of the fellows trained by HeHe Labs to lead high school Code Clubs in Rwanda
Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) Tanzania is working to improve CSO assessment of new construction in Tanzania through developing an easy-to-use assessment tool and then make this data open and available for everyone. CoST is currently working with a consultant from Uganda to replicate the assessment tool used in Uganda with the goal of having a Tanzanian version in use by local CSOs in the coming months. Training sessions on how to use the tool will follow and provide an opportunity to learn best practices that can be used in advocacy work.
Outbox, a civic technology hub based in Uganda, is designing low-cost urban environmental stations for Kampala. In partnership with National Information Technology Agency of Uganda (NITA-U), their locally developed sensors will measure environmental conditions in Kampala and make this data open. This project intersects with work around smart and open cities, environment and Internet of Things (IoT). Priority is being given to the partnership with NITA-U to ensure project adoption and sustainability.
Women Environmental Programme (WEP) wants to promote transparency and accountability in local governments through open data. With a deep understanding of the local community contexts and partnerships with both the National Bureau of Statistics and OKI, WEP designed a survey to collect data on the availability of various public services at the community level. So far, WEP has completed a 7-day data collection exercise of 160 local communities in 3 Abuja area council on top of training 20 data collectors to use the Kobo Toolbox, a mobile data collection tool. The data will be made open and analysed to provide insights to communities and governments.
Afro Leadership is a civil society organisation based in Cameroon that is working to fight corruption, improve local accountability and ensure effective service delivery by collecting and publishing approved budgets and accounts for all local authorities on the OpenSpending Cameroon platform. Additionally, they will strengthen the capacity of journalists and civil society actors to understand budget data by providing a number of offline trainings and developing online resources and courses, all in collaboration with School of Data. The Afro Leadership team is in the process of collecting the 2015 budget reports from all of the regions in Cameroon.
The Association of Freelance Journalists in Kenya (AFJ) is working to train 6 of its members in skills relevant to produce data stories in Kenya and will be working with OKI to adapt School of Data materials and the World Bank Sudan Data Journalism Program resources into a curriculum. The goal of the training is to build a team that will be capable of producing data stories as a norm. The outcome of the data journalism training will be to provide a minimum of 12 stories (2 per AFJ participant) that will be published on AFJ’s TalkAfrica platform.
How you can get involved
As this is the first iteration of the AODC Fund, we value the lessons these organisations accrue through their projects. The goal is not only to obtain tangible project outcomes but gain a better understanding of what it takes to build open data capacity in Africa. Insights into how much it costs to do data-driven journalism, to produce data on environmental conditions in cities, or to train the next generation of data practitioners in Africa will help shape how we approach open data capacity development in the future. The AODC Fund’s vision is to expose civil society organisations to the open data space, strengthen their capacity and set them on a path to be champions of open data in their local contexts.
In the meantime, if you’re reading this and have any lessons to share or want to connect with any of the organisations above, please reach out. I am very active on Twitter.
An earlier version of this piece originally appeared on the OD4D website.