The Open Data Pre- Incubator

The full power of Open Data in is yet to be fully realized.

Kenya is the first African country to embrace open data and is lauded globally for the enthusiasm and rapid pace at which the Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI) was launched. Through KODI over 400 datasets have been made publicly available on the platform.

On July 8 2011, President Mwai Kibaki launched the Kenya Open Data Initiative, making key government data freely available to the public through a single online portal. The 2009 censusnational and regional expenditure, and information on key public services are some of the first datasets to be released. The website is a user-friendly platform that allows for visualizations and downloads of the data and easy access for software developers.

Yet, the uptake among application developers, the media, public and private institutions and citizens has been low – the concept of Open Data remains vague, if not elusive to most.

Core stakeholders of Open Data, including the Government through the Ministry of Information (Permanent Secretary, Bitange Ndemo) and the World Bank have been strong advocates of the platform, evangelizing about its potential and benefits at various numerous events and public functions.

The World Bank Institute has steered education and awareness campaigns on the importance and opportunities of the open data portal, holding boot camps and hackathons with a focus on data journalism and open data for easy analysis and story telling. Government has promoted interaction with the datasets, providing grants of up to $30,000 for the development of applications based on open data.

Despite these efforts, the potential of the open data portal is hardly on the verge of being realized.

It is with this in mind that the Open Data Initiative was born. Supported by a World Bank Innovation Fund and Africa Media Initiative, the Open Data ’s (ODI) main objective is to help ‘mobilisation agents’ such as the media and civil society to make sense of data and to kindle public engagement around critical public issues.

The Open Data pre-incubator aims to:

  • Convene a network of actors to build scalable, sustainable, data-driven digital mobile services that meet the informational challenges around critical public goods such as water, education and health. These actors include external networks such as innovation hubs and other info-mediaries on Open Data.

Last week, on Friday May 25th, core stakeholders involved in the Open Data Pre-incubator Initiative converged to discuss Strategies for Scaling Innovation in the Open Data eco-system.

Participants During the First Strategic Workshop on Scaling Innovation


In what is the first of a series of workshops designed to provide an Open Data Incubator model, speakers drawn from key Open Data stakeholders as well as a range of international technology innovation experts from the European Network of Living Labs /Forum Virium Helsinki, CSIR-Meraka (South Africa) and Nokia R&D shared their practical advice and insights for how to incubate innovation within the different organizations in media, incubation hubs and civil society organizations.

World Bank and the Africa Media Initiative (AMI) co-sponsored the event.

Open Data Pre-Incubator Objectives:

  • Deepen the eco-system of Open Data users
  • Demonstrate the potential of Open Data; build applications that scale and have a host who is willing to scale these applications, services and platforms
  • Build a network of evangelists focused on Open Data around the themes of Water, Health and Education
  • Aggregate and prioritize demand for additional data – how do you build a two-way relationship between government data holders and users?

Examples of applications already built around Open Data:

Open Data Fellows Model

  • Three Fellows will be selected for a 6 month engagement, selected by a panel of issue experts (Issue experts in: Water, Health and Education)
  • Media houses and civil society organizations will pitch ideas for Fellows to work on
  • Expert working groups (in each of the three themes) help choose best ideas, and work closely with Fellows
  • Creating solutions that are accepted and used by the target audience


JARMO ESKELINEN, Forum Virium Helsinki

“Data is abstract – you have to build intelligence to show the value of data. If you don’t foster the innovation from the data, you end up with a big data catalogue which nobody uses.”

JUSSI IMPIO, Nokia R&D Center Africa

On the Importance of Locally relevant content:

“[There needs to be] active citizenship in healthcare, education … and providing access to relevant things – actually hearing from people, not just pushing things to people”


“There is a lack of awareness and understanding – projects [around Open Data] need to become part of the public’s imagination”


“Citizens do want to interact with the data out there – applications actually exist, but users don’t know where to get them…20% is the tech, 80% is the User – you must understand what they want”

JOSEPH SEVILLA, @iLab Africa, Strathmore University

“We need to engage the resources in the academic community – make them aware; help them to understand what they can do with this.”

LAURENS CLOETE, CSIR Meraka South Africa

“Understand the bigger picture from a eagle eye point of view; balanced with a bottom up solution approach… in order to connect the different parts of the information chain” (!/laurenscloete)

KHALILA SALIM, Praekelt Foundation East Africa

“There needs to be a way of simplifying it [‘Open Data’] so that people feel a part of the process… can we name it, for example, ‘Open Dialogue’?”

 Thank you to the World Bank and the African Media Initiative for putting together the event. 


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