Yesterday, Kenya became the first Sub-Saharan African nation to institute a national open data program.

"The Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI) goes live this morning," White African wrote yesterday, "in a big event that includes President Kibaki, as well as many politicians, government officials and local technologists."

The Data

The data is being made available via the Socrata platform. Socrata calls the Kenyan initiative, "one of the most comprehensive open data projects anywhere in the world" and writes that its goal is "to create enabling infrastructure that can accelerate human and economic development throughout communities in Kenya."

Data has been pulled from national census, the ministry of education, ministry of health, CDF projects, the World Bank and other sources, according to White African and Socrata. The data is organized under six types: education, energy, health, water and sanitation, population and poverty.

Paul Kukubo, CEO of Kenya's ICT, the state corporation in charge of the development and marketing of the information, communications and technology sector in the country, outlined the hopes for the program in greater detail.

"For the first time ever, people in our communities will be empowered to choose the best schools for their children, locate the nearest health facility that meets their needs, and use regional statistics to lobby their constituency representative for better infrastructure and services in their county. The research community, on the other hand, can use this consolidated resource of valuable new data to discover practical insights that can guide economic and human development in Kenya. For example: What effect does access to drinking water have on school attendance in children? What is the correlation between access to healthcare and school grades? Where does it make sense to build the next hospital? School? Irrigation project? All Kenyans can now participate in finding solutions to these crucially important questions."


Data-Inspired Projects

The Ministry of Information and Communications is awarding grants to support the development of native and mobile apps that use the data, through iHub, a Kenyan tech hub and community of 4,250 geeks.

Ushahidi, notorious for not sitting on their hands when there are data to crush, have already created a health-based project. They have taken the census data and overlaid it with healthcare institution data on their Huduma site. "It's still very beta, but it shows what can be done in just a few days."

Other projects include the Msema Kweli mobile app, "that allows you to find CDF projects near you, and for you to add pictures of them" and an app by Virtual Kenya "that shows which MPs refuse to pay taxes."

Almost 30% of Kenyans have Internet access and just over 63% have mobile access.

Nairobi photo by Brian Snelson | thanks to Rassina