Africa’s First National Open Data Initiative: Kenya

Today Kenya becomes the first country in Africa to launch a national open data initiative. There have been many people pushing for this, over many months, and it’s been an exciting process to watch unfold. Foremost amongst the drivers on this has been Dr. Bitange Ndemo, the Permanent Secretary of Information and Communications. This is indeed a very proud moment for Kenya, and a leading position to take on the continent.

The Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI) goes live this morning in a big event that includes President Kibaki, as well as many politicians, government officials and local technologists. The World Bank, who has been instrumental in organizing and helping publish the data is here as well, along with Google, Ushahidi, the iHub community and a large selection of youth.

Data Sets

The data is available online through the Socrata platform, which allows users to view different data at national, county and constituency levels. They can compare different data sets, create maps and other visualizations.

Data sets are categorized into 6 main categories: Education, Energy, Health, Population, Poverty and Water & Sanitation. It includes data from the national census, the ministry of education, ministry of health, CDF projects and many more.

Here’s an example of that data, “county expenditures by administration”:

Mashing up the Data

This all came together rather quickly, starting about 3 weeks ago. The tech community was immediately reached out to, and as the data sets have come online over the last week, we’ve had access to them early in order to show what can be done. Here’s a few samples of that.

The Ushahidi team is taking the census data and overlaying healthcare institution data on top of it into our Huduma site. It’s still very beta, but it shows what can be done in just a few days.

We’ve also built a simple SMS query tool. If you’re in Kenya, send an SMS to 3018 with the name of your county or constituency and you’ll get back an SMS with the demographics and MP of that location.

The Virtual Kenya team has built an app that shows which MPs refuse to pay taxes.

The iHub community has done some things around tracking CDF fund usage in the constituencies. There’s a mobile app called “Msema Kweli” that allows you to find CDF projects near you, and for you to add pictures of them.

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53 thoughts on “Africa’s First National Open Data Initiative: Kenya

  1. Ed

    This looks good. Transparency on another level, the politicians have nowhere to hide now!!!

  2. Anthony Nandaa

    That’s a cool insight. I don’t know if I misconceptualized the OpenData idea, but is it possible to get information about a person given his/her National ID with the OpenData API ?

    1. HASH

      Anthony, that isn’t possible. This data is scrubbed before release. No personal information is part of the data sets.

  3. Tariq Khokhar

    I should buy more hats, just so I can take them all off to the developers who’ve made this happen. Well done!

    Congratulations to Kenya on being having the first African Open Government Data Initiative, I’m so pleased I’ll be able to look back and say I was in Nairobi when it first happened.

    So, there is now data where once there was none – developers: the ball is in your court!

  4. Tarik Koech

    This came sooner than I thought. Good work from the Kenyan Government and Developer Community. As a developer, i think this open data will be helpful in some of my projects. Nice and well illustrated post!

  5. Tracey

    Great write-up, thanks. This should be the start of a new era of evidence-based policy making and social accountability in Kenya. Plus, although 99 percent of the datasets will be available in English write now, there are plans to also make them all also available in Swahili in the next few weeks.

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  7. Mikel Maorn

    So excellent.

    Erik, do you have a link to the “Msema Kweli”? Jamila and I hacked on a similar thing for Apps4Africa, and would love to see how the concept has grown.

    -Mikel

  8. Reinier Battenberg

    This sets a new standard for african governments. No more ‘that will never happen here’ excuses. It does happen. And it will change so much.

    Happy hacking from the neighbors!

  9. Obie

    Now these are the initiatives that make us the most optimistic lot on the continent…! Makes for a variety of opportunities for dev’s to innovate, and cash in too. I hope there are plans to keep the data up to date which I guess would be a recurring, perhaps incremental, cost.
    Assuming the dev community’s benevolence is exhaustible, sustainability should definitely be a critical consideration. Me thinks

  10. martin

    I have difficulties accessing the KODI website, or finding the datasets on Socrata – would you have a direct link?
    Cheers, Martin

  11. Abel

    What would it take to have additional data sets/indicators on Kenya uploaded especially on Democracy, Governance, Human Rights etc from other globally recognized institutions like Freedom House, Afrobarometer, TI etc

  12. Kyle Green

    Been waiting for this for a while now. Keeping my eyes on Kenya to see where this goes, and how the masses will use it. Congrats to Kenya on this first big step.

    Just one question: Since the government controls and scrubs the data themselves before being available, how can we be certain the data is and always will be accurate? The power is truly in the data.

  13. Bob

    The SMS query number didn’t work — said message couldn’t be sent. I’m sending from Airtel — is the query on another network? The iPhone insists on inputting the number as 301-8; my local Nokia left out the dash — but, the dash shouldn’t make a difference (and the result was the same on both phones — “message not sent”).

    1. HASH

      @Bob, it’s an experimental service that we hacked together this week. I believe it only works on Safaricom.

  14. Mathara Munano

    This is one great event! This technology is very important to Kenyans. Things are actually moving faster than I thought. I suggest that the open data initiative should be made accessible to all Kenyans in all portable devices, be well customizable like other foreign applications so that we can fast track all this information which passes us. This is the greatest news I’ve had the whole day.

  15. Emeka Okoye

    I am very impressed with this stride by the Kenyans. I am equally surprised that the Government was involved. It shows that transparency and open governance can be done in Africa. This is a pace setter and a good technology-based Public-Private initiative model. Way to go :)

  16. Bob

    @Hash — Thanks. I suspected as much and totally understand. I like what you guys are doing — a lot.

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  25. jaributest

    I guess to Okoye, you shouldn’t be so pessimistic. That kind of attitude is what brings and keeps Africans down. All countries have problems it’s how you perceive it that counts.

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  28. Elias Mageto

    Kenya continues its push to be the silicon valley of Africa. I will not be surprised when the next google or facebook is developed in Kenya. Congrats to Dr. Ndemo and the entire Tech community the participated in its implementation.

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  31. Kenya Hotels

    It’s truly inspirational to see technology like this being implemented in African countries. Information and transparency is key for a country to perform well and initiatives such as this will transform how people access data.

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