By Ashnah Kalemera
The government of Uganda has officially launched an Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA) study to review the country’s state of play of Open Government Data (OGD). The announcement was made at a stakeholder meeting held at the Ministry of Finance Economic Planning and Development in Kampala on February 23, 2015. The launch was attended by representatives from civil society and different Ministries, Departments and Agencies involved in implementing open data initiatives.
Coordinated by the Finance ministry, in partnership with the National Information Technology Authority (NITA) and the World Bank, the ODRA study aims to develop an action plan that provides recommendations for the government on how to implement a national open data initiative.
The launch of the assessment comes on the tail of the World Open Data Day which was commemorated in over 100 cities across the world on Saturday February 21. In the country’s capital Kampala, the day saw local enthusiasts converge at an innovation hub to discuss Open Data trends and also conduct practical exploration exercises on currently available data.
The ODRA study is based on the World Bank’s Open Data Toolkit and focuses on senior leadership, policy and legislative frameworks, institutional structures, and the responsibilities and capabilities within government. Other areas of focus include government data management policies and data availability, demand for open data, civic engagement capabilities, funding availability for an open data program, and the national infrastructure and skills. The study will involve stakeholder interviews in key priority sectors such as health, education, water, agriculture, energy and minerals, and roads and infrastructure.
A similar open government data assessment study, for Uganda conducted by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in 2011 uncovered that in the absence of a dedicated open data portal, some Ugandan institutions were performing very well as far as making data and information available in the public domain. Based on basic tenets of open data readiness: knowledge, attitudes and practice, the study concluded that Uganda was ready to implement OGD with appropriate support and guidance. There however remained the need to create systems and infrastructure to converge all government data into a single location. There was also the need for a shift in attitude towards open data use and the development of appropriate regulations and standards that conform to OGD initiatives.
Indeed, a number of open governance initiatives have since taken root, including those lead by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Water and Environment, Ministry of Health and CSO coalitions.
To further support availability and information provision in the public domain, the Ministry of Information and National Guidance, in partnership with CIPESA and the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) launched an online portal (www.askyourgov.ug) in August 2014 aimed at enabling citizen’s right to information as provided for under the Access to Information Act (2005).
According to the World Bank analysts, African countries that benefited from ODRA assessments have witnessed tangible results by implementing open data initiatives. These include Kenya, Burkina Faso and Ghana whose open data portals are aimed at promoting accountability, transparency, innovation and improved service delivery. In Nigeria, an initiative is in place at local government level while more recently, an Ebola Open Data portal was launched to help manage the disease outbreak in Western Africa. The various initiatives have recorded varied levels of success in terms of the relevance of the data availed, the frequency of updates, sustainability and uptake.
The Uganda ODRA study action plan is expected to be released at the end of March 2015 with validation taking place in April 2015.
By Ashnah Kalemera