Uganda Government Launches Open Data Readiness Assessment

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 ( 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.

The World Bank’s Plan for Regional Open Access Infrastructure

In March 2007, the World Bank announced the approval of $164.5 million financing for Burundi, Kenya and Madagascar as the first tranche of the $424 million Regional Communications Infrastructure Programme (RCIP) for East and Southern Africa. CIPESA spoke to an RCIP team coordinated by World Bank RCIP Team Leader Laurent Besancon. What follows are excerpts:
Q. The World Bank has just announced financing of the initial tranche of $164.5 million. When will this money be available, and when is it hoped the projects it is going to fund will materialise?
The timing for the disbursement of the funds approved end of March may vary between countries covered by Phase 1 of the RCIP. It is nonetheless expected that disbursement will start in the course of July 2007. The activities financed for the Phase 1 of RCIP are expected to materialise over the next four years (Burundi and Madagascar) and next five years (Kenya), which is the planned duration of the respective projects. It is expected that the first two years will be particularly active based on the current momentum for swift implementation.

Q. Why are you financing the building of terrestrial fibre optics while the region does not have access to international fibre? What benefits will this create?

Based on the current number of international submarine cable initiatives aimed at connecting East and Southern Africa, as well as based on their advancement, it is fair to assume that the region will have submarine cable connectivity by 2009. RCIP supports countries in the region to ensure they will be able to take full advantage of that connectivity when it is available. RCIP also supports countries in accelerating terrestrial cross-border connectivity.
Q. Who will this money be given to in the various countries, and what exactly are they going to do with it? 
Financing in Burundi and Madagascar is notably aimed at accelerating the roll-out of backbone infrastructure. This will be carried out in cooperation with telecommunications operators. Although the nature of the Public Private Partnerships will vary in both countries, the resulting infrastructure will be operator-run on an open access basis.
Financing in Kenya is notably aimed at financing (i) capacity purchase schemes for Government users, Universities (through the Kenya Education Network – KENET), and the Business Process Outsourcing industry; (ii) a government virtual private network and (iii) key eGovernment activities which are expected to increase transparency and quality of service provided to citizens and businesses.
Q. How does this programme feed into ongoing and planned fibre programmes in the region, both by governments and private entities? 
The activities financed under RCIP, including the ones related to fibre connectivity in Burundi and Madagascar, have been designed by the respective Governments. Furthermore, the emphasis on leveraging investment by private entities will ensure consistency with their programs. As an example, five fixed and mobile telecommunications operators are participating in the formulation of the related public-private partnership in Burundi where activities are most advanced.
In Kenya, capacity purchase schemes financed under RCIP will take the form of capacity requirements being tendered out (i.e. any operator which can fulfil the capacity demand expressed can bid).
Q. Does this programme complement EASSy? Are they related at all? 
While a separate proposal by International Finance Corporation (IFC is the private sector arm of the World Bank Group) is focused on the EASSy submarine cable, the World Bank-financed RCIP operation focuses on the terrestrial elements of the overall regional communications infrastructure and on activities generating demand for the infrastructure being put in place. As such RCIP and EASSy are complementary. It is important to note that RCIP will be equally complementary to EASSy, SEACOM, TEAMS or FLAG Africa, should any of these East Africa submarine cables materialise.
Q. Will the fibre built by RCIP financing be subjected to Open Access principles? Who will run this fibre, and how will the Bank ensure it is accessed at affordable terms?
One of the founding principles for World Bank financing under RCIP is indeed Open Access, broadly defined as an equal opportunity for operators to have unfettered access to given infrastructure or services under similar terms and conditions. It is expected that the principle of Open Access as well as cost-based pricing will be enshrined into the Public Private Partnerships arrangements referred to above.
Q. What is your take on the various marine cables (besides EASSy) which are planned on the east coast of Africa? Do you think all these planned cables will materialise, and if they do, will they all be feasible? 
We do not expect all the current initiatives to necessarily materialise in the current timeframe but we note that the resulting competition means the various initiatives are racing to be the first to materialise. We believe this momentum is positive. It means the region will be connected by 2009. Should there be more than one cable, this would mean additional downward pressure on prices, which, from the policy angle, would be a welcome development.
Q. Why were Kenya, Madagascar and Burundi specifically chosen for this programme? And are there ways in which other countries in the region will benefit from the programme? 
The countries participating in the first phase of RCIP World Bank operation (Kenya, Burundi and Madagascar) were chosen based on readiness and based on the timing of their official support request addressed to the World Bank (from their respective Ministries of Finance), which showed: (i) ownership of the activities beyond the Ministry of Telecommunications or its equivalent; (ii) the desire to work with the World Bank Group; and (iii) the activities to be financed are at the core of the country’s priorities. It is also worth noting that the three countries have subscribed to an open access platform and have advanced considerably in terms of ICT sector liberalisation and sector reform, both of which will enhance the impact of RCIP.
Overall, RCIP is open to other countries including: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, DRC, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, provided these countries are eligible for World Bank financing at the time of request for support.
Q. In your view, what needs to be done to improve the uptake of Internet in East/Southern Africa? And besides this programme, are there other initiatives the World Bank is engaged in/plans in this regard? 
We believe uptake of Internet in the region will be seriously boosted provided (i) the cost of Internet access is dramatically reduced; (ii) cost of personal computers available in the region is reduced; and (iii) the literacy challenge is tackled.
RCIP is targeting the cost of Internet access by contributing to solve the connectivity issue. For Burundi and Madagascar, RCIP will also finance domestic Internet Exchange Points so as to allow national internet traffic to remain national (instead of having to transit through Europe or the US, consuming expensive international bandwidth along the way). In Kenya, RCIP will also support the roll-out of “digital villages”, essentially a one-stop shop for e-government services and Internet access.
Q. One of the stated outcomes of RCIP is that “bandwidth costs are projected to decline more than tenfold from between USD 5,000-8,000 per month for 1 Megabit today to around US$150 per Megabit in 2008 at retail level, and to rapidly decline further.” What other initiatives are planned under RCIP to help achieve this? 
RCIP will accelerate national infrastructure roll-out, encourage traffic demand and support eGovernment applications. The proposed RCIP is designed to: (i) accelerate the roll-out of the terrestrial regional and related national backbone infrastructure to extend the reach of submarine cable traffic to consumers in all the countries of the Eastern and Southern region, rather than only the coastal countries; (ii) finance purchase of capacity for use by Government and by other targeted users (schools, universities, hospitals, etc.); and (iii) finance related activities such as eGovernment.
We expect that the combined outcome of RCIP-financed activities, availability of submarine cable connectivity, similar connectivity efforts funded by other development partners, private sector entities and Governments will be the commoditisation of international bandwidth capacity.
Q. How do you plan on stimulating demand for the infrastructure which RCIP is putting into place? 
RCIP support is tailored to the individual country’s request. For instance, in the case of Kenya, the Government would like to use RCIP to finance capacity purchase schemes for targeted user groups (Government users, universities, Business Process Outsourcing industry), as well as to accelerate the roll-out of digital villages. – May 2007