Africa is not highlighting the successes of open data use in addressing challenges on the continent, Mahadia Tunga, Head of Training at the Tanzania Data Lab, has said in Accra.
She said open data and its impact on improving lives was largely seen as a western concept, a perception, which could only be changed by Africa documenting and showcasing open data success stories on the continent.
Speaking to the GNA in an interview at the just ended Africa Open Data Conference 2017, Ms Tunga said to increase the impact of open data in Africa, it was critical to highlight success cases. She said open data was predominantly seen as a ‘government thing’, with users focusing more on the deficiencies in data than the benefits and impact that can be derived from it.
“When people see the impact and benefits of open data, they will be drawn into it, but if we don’t document our stories, our people will not be able to engage in using open data” she said. She expressed worry about the way Africans criticise data and urged them to rather collaborate with governments to improve on the data available in their respective communities.
“Government alone cannot make the open data ecosystem; we need citizens and governments to collaborate for positive impact”. The Tanzania Data Laboratory, she said, focuses on researching open data challenges, opportunities and benefits and documents them on its online portal.
The main challenge to open data in Africa, she notes, is the issue of standardisation. There are no documented standards for collection of data such as geographic data.Other challenges are high illiteracy rates, inadequate infrastructure and the lack of policies across the continent on open data. Where there are policies, they tend to be too general and do not address specific issues or sector in open data.
Ms Tunga said open data presented many opportunities for Africa including data for researchers that allowed them to refine their work and reduce the need for some field work.
It also presents opportunities for innovation to develop tools to address problems in various sectors such as using climate data for predictions in agriculture; as well as for gender advancement among many others.
Participants at the session discussed the challenges, benefits and key issues associated with working with data from their work and highlighted the need for more African open data impact stories. They called for the need to build the competencies of media and journalists to use open data and shared impact stories on open data from their respective countries, which would be followed up and documented on the Dlab online portal.