The FTM Team – From Left: Chambers, Celestina, Tunde and Dotun

Imagine when information is accessible to everyone, even those in rural communities that lack mobile phones and internet connectivity. Imagine when data driven innovations and availability is lubricating businesses; proliferating innovation in healthcare, education, agriculture, transportation, gender equality; fostering economic growth; and ultimately, improving the quality of government service through participation, engagement and realization of service delivery.

These are the essence of the continental Open Data Revolution, as well as low hanging fruits and potentials for Africa’s socio-political and economic development. The unpacked possibilities inspired the Second Africa Open Data Conference (#AODC17) in Accra, Ghana, which held from 17 – 21 July, a continuation of the Africa Open Data dialectics whose maiden edition happened in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in the last month of 2016’s third quarter. This time in Accra, the theme was Open Data for Sustainable Development in Africa, lustrated to examine the importance of open data in the continental aspiration to realize the new global goals by 2030.

The #AODC17 convened participants and speakers from the tech industry, journalists, small businesses, academics, civic technologists, entrepreneurs, students, IT solution providers, banks, telecoms, companies, NGOs, donor organizations, and domestic and national governments. It indeed became a platform for networking, information sharing, knowledge transfer and collaborations.

The five – day conference started with various site visits around Accra for participants to meet and connect with organizations and individuals who are working on Open Data in Africa . Through this, participants met with Ghana’s open data initiatives cutting across the fields of journalism, health, education, agriculture, entrepreneurship, etc. I joined the party by visiting the Media Hub Africa and iSpace Ghana where, I empirically learnt, discussed and shared experiences with Ghana’s Open Data change makers in Agriculture and Journalism. On the former, one elemental area of debate was the actual extent technology driven innovations can solve rural agricultural problems based on the fact that many rural farmers lack access to mobile phones, cannot use them, as well as lack the education to interpret some of the data provided to them. A takeaway from this is that, solution providers should mechanize a way to take the solutions down to the ruralists through townhall meetings, local radio etc.

With the Togolese Eklou Amemassovor and his friends who are interested in following the money in Togo

Consequent days were contemporaneous workshops on an avalanche of multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary themes. I attended the ones on Africa Open Data Research, Open Data and Governance, Empowering Communities to Improve Their Lives Using Data and Economic Growth. On Wednesday the 19th, Connected Development in partnership with other wingmen organizations all over the continent superintended and moderated the Follow The Money (FTM) Track session. This was an all-day event, entirely dedicated to Open Government. Several non-profit initiatives from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Nigeria, etc. all participated to share lessons, experiences and information on tracking the implementation of governmental spending, making different government sectors more transparent and accountable, inspiring citizens to take action, encouraging civic participation in governance, open contracting, etc.

This was the most interesting, regardless that the CODE Follow The Money team shared experiences on how we have impacted thousands of lives across the continent, built the capacity of rural community members to hold their government to account, made the government more responsive to citizenry requests, improved rural access to information and facilitated service delivery over the implementation of projects in rural communities, we were able to inspire the probable establishment of Follow The Money initiatives in Togo and Uganda. In addition, it was an opportunity to get perspicacity on Open Contracting including several intricacies of the Open Contracting Data Standards.

Also, the Track session was an occasion for Open Government change makers to discuss the state of freedom of information/access to information/right to information laws in different African countries. While the adjudication was the slowness in the operationalization of these laws, it was agreed that for better open government outcomes, such law is imperative in the work. For Ghana Open Data change makers, it’s like ministration is on the way, as President Akuffo Addo during his speech the next day, urged the Ghanaian Parliament to quicken the Right To Information Bill passage.

The #AODC17 was a great event. I networked, info-shared and interacted with the leads of several inspiring open government initiatives on the continent including Odekro and Hivos. It was also an opportunity to get a superficial vista of Accra, the Ghanaian way of life, eat local meals, sightsee and make new friends. Keep the http://ifollowthemoney.org platform close as we leverage on different collaborations from the #AODC17 for further impacts in rural communities.

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Senior Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

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