Over the past decade – certainly since 2010 – Africans have made great strides in the use of technology and data for development and for transparency. There have been many landmark innovations that have emanated from the continent that have gone on to be useful in many other parts of the world. There have been many projects and pilots that have significantly added to the body of knowledge that has helped to guide the development of policy for transparency and development.
The Open Institute has often decried one major downside to all these exciting activities all over the continent. First, that there has not been enough collaboration and partnership between the various groups that are involved. The challenge therefore, is that there has been a lot of duplication and wastage – of donor funds, of human resources and even of code. In addition there has been some unhealthy competition between development oriented organisations, something that should never happen in our view.
Our response to the lack of collaboration and partnership has been Buntwani – our annual Africa-wide meet-up that sometimes has led to some local or regional meet-ups in various parts of the continent. The idea for Buntwani was to stimulate conversation that leads to joint action.
A criticism that has often been voiced around the African Open Data space is that all too often, there are too few Africans who sit at the table driving the continent’s Open Data agenda. In fact, there have been many meeting in which most of the participants happen to be from the Global North – or non-African.
Lately, we have been excited to become aware that our friends at LDRI have been chosen to coordinate the development of an African Open Data Network. This, in our view, is a momentous milestone on the continent’s progress towards having structured and consistent conversations, collaborations and partnerships. We are especially thrilled that it was LDRI that was chosen for this because we know of their commitment towards a truly African-Led network.
We have many hopes around the development of this network. We hope that the African Open Data Conference that has been ably led (with a great deal of personal sacrifice) by the World Bank’s Jeanne Holmes, Passionate Consultant Kat Townsend, AFJ’s Winnie Kamau and Open Data researcher Paul Mungai will find a home at the Network. We hope that the African Open Data Network will galvanise the continent so that the 2020 International Open Data Conference shall be held on African soil.
As the Open Institute, we pledge our support for the success of the network and we join LDRI and others in the community to thank OD4D for their support.