BIH gauges Open Data readiness in Botswana

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

The Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) recently invited a team of experts on Open Data preparedness in the country. Andrew Stott Senior Consultant, World Bank and formerly Director, led a team of Open Data Readiness Assessment Team which included World Bank’s Anat Lewin, Open Data Institute team of Liz Carolan and Emer Coleman.

During the beginning of the year, BIH and the government agreed to conduct “a diagnostic study to assess the viability of implementing of an open data programme in the country.”

Biztechafrica is in possession of a presentation by Andrew Stott titled “Open Data for Botswana” which highlights some of the activities and snap findings that the team put together.  These included some 53 interviewees with sector stakeholders and other Government officials, Tech start-ups, and a press conference. Other interviews with some Ministries to get at more technical details were pencilled for later.

Stott said some key findings included that Open Data could make a significant contribution to Botswana’s economic goals, and help re-assert Botswana’s traditional democratic credentials. The team found “no fundamental reason why Botswana should not move quickly with good digitisation of current data.”

They also felt that the new leadership in e-Government Office would come in handy in this regard and that the Innovation Hub could host data use incubation when the ball starts rolling. However, Stott’s report says all this initiative would mean “strong, visible, political support strong, sustained, institutional leadership across government while the current development of cost recovery policies needs to be stopped.”

Numerous African countries have implemented open data initiatives, including Nigeria and Kenya, as well as the African Development Bank (AfDB), which launched a platform that includes information from 20 states across the continent.

 “The assessment will include an Action Plan, which will provide recommendations on utilising Open Data to stimulate business innovation and new business creation, especially in the ICT and small business sectors,” BIH said.

An earlier statement said “The study, entitled the Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA), will consist of interviews with key stakeholders in government and the provide sector and will cover eight pillars of leadership, including: law, government institutions, management of data, demand for data, capabilities of business and civil society, finance and national IT infrastructure.”

Key government arms that need to take the initiative include Botswana Innovation Hub and e-Government Office which have the capacity to lead demand and supply sides respectively while a poor historical delivery record of cross-Government IT programmes is one of the dampers.  Some major websites have been down “for years", while content on others is said to be clearly out of date.

Open data initiatives release raw, machine-readable data that is useful to others, including non-sensitive information gathered by governments during the course of their operations.

According to management consulting firm McKinsey and Company, open data is a US$3 trillion industry, with the number of United States (US)-based companies working on open data increasing from 45 in 2010 to 2,000 in 2014.

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