Posted by: Administrator | April 8, 2011

Using government data to create local apps with Dr. Bitange Ndemo

Dr Bitange Ndemo in action at the event

This recently held talk was hosted by Nokia at the iHub and sought to integrate govt effort to provide information with the developer willing to come up with local solutions based on data publicly and freely available to them.
In attendance was Dr. Bitange Ndemo,the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communications.Among his key points was the emphasis that data is indeed locally available through major fronts like the Ministry of Planning, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and other relevant bodies within the govt that were responsible for keeping record of public information. This talk proved to be quite engaging for Dr.Ndemo as he steadily took on a wide array of questions from the very inquisitive and sometimes involving crowd which comprised both the student fraternity(majority from JKUAT) as well as developers from the industry who were keen on the information he conveyed to them.
Among the key questions raised were the following:

  • where do you get the data locally to develop local apps for the local market from?
  • who owns this data?
  • what kind of data is available and how open is it?
  • what about the red tape?

Dr Ndemo stressed on the importance of making local applications that would empower the “man on the ground” make real decisions on issues and impart knowledge based on these decisions to his environment.He provided real world scenarios to drive his point home,among them:

  • apps that help the farmer become more productive…weather pattern warnings, newer methods of tracking crop growth,etc
  • apps that sensitize the public on the environment…issues like global warming,the ozone layer, carbon emissions need to be disseminated in a way that is easily understandable to the non expert.

To answer their questions Dr Ndemo provided the following info:

  • the data is indeed accessible and he pointed to a worthwhile first stop in the name of the Ministry of Planning. He further challenged the audience to take the initiative and ASK FOR THE INFORMATION and  in addition stated that locally available data was indeed centralized with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics being the major stop for anyone who needs it all in one place.
  • as far as the integrity of the data goes,Dr Ndemo assured one and all that the data is indeed very much accurate and he took it a step further by providing links to other recognized world bodies that would help validate what was currently available locally as being of the highest standard i.e. the UN, the World Bank, and sites like gapminer.org
  • to answer the question of just what the govt was getting out of the whole project,Dr Ndemo asked the developers and other interested parties of the information to acknowledge the govt’s role in providing it,adding that the govt was simply a facilitator and would realize benefits in its people much later on.
  • another important question raised regarded the legal aspect of the publicly available data.Dr Ndemo rallied behind the Freedom of Information Bill that would soon go through the motions in parliament and would seek to make information access more open.

Although still a work in progress, the eventual website will be opendata.go.ke and will be a fully fledged site catering for all data needs and requirements for the developer with an eye on the local market.


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