Code for Africa : towards people-driven Open Data & Open Government


 

Open Data & Open Government promise to change the power dynamics that govern our societies, giving ordinary citizens more and deeper information in real time, along with digital tools for engaging with fellow citizens and with those in positions of power.

So, why are so few citizens using either the data or the tools -- despite generous funding and massive institutional support?

The problem - - Code for Africa believes - -  is an issue of supply versus demand.

Much of the focus by the civic technology movement to date has been on governments and activists pushing data and services at citizens, rather than listening to what citizens really want or need...

By contrast, Code for Africa embraces Open Data Movement relating to the duties or activities of people based on their their needs to use tools, services and facilities

This approach frames itself as a people-driven movement that aims to empower active citizenry to help government shape and improve its services to citizens.

Code for Africa initiative is driven and co-funded by grassroots citizen organizations and the mass media and is focused primarily on building civic technology capacity within civil society and the watchdog media. 

Some of Code for Africa's flagship programs include:

Data Liberation

To digitize and liberate data held in academia, the media, civil society, and citizen groups.This includes going beyond government data, by hosting DataLiberation Scraperthons or supporting scraping projects such as sourceAFRICA, and building APIs to access existing data.

Data Fellowships

Each fellow builds proof-of-concept services / apps, and helps to develop internal policy, data platforms, and recruitment / staff strategies.

The fellowships are supported by external civic technology labs, and run for between six and 12 months. 

Data Skills

Training events will be supported by the World Bank, industry associations such as the International Center for Journalists, trend-setting corporates such as Google, and grassroots user-groups such as Hacks/Hackers.

Data Tools

The best way to convince people about the power and relevance of data, is to point them to some showcase tools or services that demonstrate pragmatic potential. Code for Africa supports the development of citizen-driven solutions, such as the GotToVote toolkit that has already been used in Kenya, Malawi & Zimbabwe, or the actNOW and askAFRICA projects in Ghana and South Africa. 

Code for Africa champions re-use and replication wherever appropriate, by supporting the work of pioneers such as mySociety and Open Knowledge Foundation and others.

The full Code for Africa website is still in development. Sign up to be kept informed about updates and other news.

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