Doors Closed to Open Data in Africa

Home > Learn More > Stories & News > Doors Closed to Open Data in Africa

Posted on 1/15/2014
Open data projects in Africa could have a major impact on government policy.
Open data projects in Africa could have a major impact on government policy.

Access to open data information culled from a variety of government reporting organizations that can be freely accessed by researchers, analysts and nonprofit organizations, among others and has made significant process worldwide in the past several years. In Africa, the open data movement has the potential to make a significant impact on how governments formulate social and economic policy, but several such programs have encountered difficulties that must be overcome before any real change can be made, including creating common formats and increasing searchability.

Behind the Data

One of the largest African open data projects is Open Data for Africa. Consisting of a network of open data platforms spanning all 54 African countries, this project, led by the African Development Bank, aims to make information about government spending and a range of other topics available to experts who can advise officials on how to craft legislation that will improve social, economic and corporate interests. Open data programs can provide insight into availability of health care services in rural communities and the number of smallholder farms across an entire country, among many other statistics.

Despite the substantial gains that have been made in expanding the reach of open data projects across Africa, several major hurdles remain, most notably the lack of standardization in data sets.

"As it is so new, open data is often inconsistent in its format, making it difficult to reuse," says Ulrich Atz, chief statistician for the Open Data Institute, a British nonprofit organization. "We see a great need for standards and tools."

Vast Potential

Although open data projects have encountered some obstacles, the potential for these systems to help children and families living in poverty is great. Once standardized data collection and publication tools have been implemented, governments, nonprofit organizations and private investors will be able to analyze how effective (or ineffective) policies are in communities and nations.

For example, open data could be used to track the effectiveness of microfinancing programs by studying how loans to business owners affect family income. Or analyzing how access to mobile phones assists people in receiving health care in rural regions. Open data can give government officials a clearer picture of their constituents and how best to allocate aid funding.

Helping Families

It may be some time before Africa's open data movement overcomes these obstacles and reaches its full potential, but you can still help a child in need by becoming a child sponsor.

For about a $1 per day, you can ensure that an African boy or girl has the nutritious food, clean drinking water and lifesaving medical care he or she needs. When you sponsor a child, other families in the community benefit, as your generosity allows us to support early childhood development centers, work with governments and local partner organizations to improve health care facilities, and start a range of other projects that provide much-needed aid to Africa's poorest communities.

Please consider supporting ChildFund today and make a difference in the life of a child.