“Open Data remains a luxury reserved for better connected communities, and people having free access to internet.”
As the UN World Data Forum 2018 is currently taking place, hosted by Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, of United Arab Emirates from 22 to 24 October 2018, it is accurate to question the impact of data on building better societies.
Considering the role of big data in sustainable development, the United Nations has pointed out data as the lifeblood of decision-making and the raw material for accountability. Open data process has proved to be the best way to ensure universal access to public data and in turn, ensure that vital role played by data in sustainable development.
But Open Data remains a luxury reserved for better connected communities, and people having free access to internet. Only these privileged communities can boast prerogatives related to free access to open data. How can this free access to internet be ensured for communities in sub-Saharan Africa, where NGOs and the private sector need access to data to carry out their work and better contribute to sustainable development?
Some answers were provided at the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa ( #FIFA2018 ): Growing Africa’s Community of Internet Freedom Leaders, held in Accra, Ghana, from 27 to 28 September 2018, organized jointly by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and the Media Foundation West Africa (MFWA). This 5th edition was made of several sessions with various topics including Free Internet in Africa, Social media taxes, Online regulation, Cybercrime, Data, Open Data and the Internet universality.
Specifically, the session titled “Big Data to Open Data: Key ingredients for Civic Technology and Social Innovation”, led by Neema Iyer from Pollicy, aimed to explore the value of data in policy development through to creating relevant and responsive social solutions, civic technology interventions, business products and viable e-governance systems. It did question the role of open data and unfettered access to the internet play in advancing private sector and civil society’s actions to strengthen the sustainability of African economies and societies. It also explored how ICT is spurring social innovations both online and offline. Further, it questionned what information gaps civic technology faces in developing responsive solutions and platforms – and how to address these gaps. For the lighting talk, panelists were Simone Toussi from Cameroon, Abdihakim Ainte from Somalia, Joachim Mangilima from Tanzania and Benjamin Akinmoyeje.
Another session led by Hu Xianhong from UNESCO, titled “Advancing Access To Information through the Internet Universality Indicators”, aimed to define the intersection of access to information and application of the internet universality indicators as we to mark the third year of the International Day for Universal Access to
Information (IDUAI). It gave state and non-state stakeholders the skills to use the indicators to assess their internet environments. Panelists were from Nigeria Ministry of Communications and Technology, Internet Sans Frontières, MISA Tanzania and UNESCO.