Open data key to Africa’s development, says Tanzania president

7 Sep 15

Africa needs to embrace open data as part of the development agenda, Tanzania’s president Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete has said in a speech at the continent’s first conference on the issue.

“Transparency, openness and accountability are critical for both the government and the people because when the government is open, the people know what is going on, they can hold their government accountable, and the government has the urge to deliver,” Kikwete said.

In June 2013, Tanzania was the first African country to introduce the Open Data Readiness Assessment methodology, and has been followed by others including Nigeria, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Kent and Ethiopia. The east African country makes a range of data freely available here.

Robust data makes change possible, Kikwete told delegates in his keynote address to the conference in Tanzania’s capital Dar Es Salaam on 4 September.

However, he acknowledged that challenges were involved. “African governments are… grappling with the dilemma between promoting open data on one hand and maintaining data sovereignty on the other,” he said.

“The challenge has always been about where to strike a balance between the two.”

Open data should not be freedom to produce, access and publish all types of data, he added. For instance, data related to national security should not be made public.

The African Open Data conference was jointly organised with the World Bank and was also addressed by the bank’s Tanzania country director Bella Bird.

“In many parts of the world, open government and open data have had a transformative impact on economic growth, job creation, and the way citizens interact with their government, and it is exciting to see the same potential being realized here in Tanzania,” she said.

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