February 22, 2013

Code4Kenya Launch

Below the speech delivered by Jay Bhalla, Executive Director of The Open Institute Trust, during the Code4Kenya Launch Event held on the 24th of January 2013.

A very good morning to everyone. It’s been slightly over a year and a half since Kenya embarked on its ambitious Open Data Initiative. At the time there were great hopes for the initiative from various quarters. Government Agencies, Civil Society and especially the Developer community. This was going to be the key to unlocking the creation of sustainable applications and applications that would create great impact from solving problems faced by community groups the common citizens to creating profitable business and creating employment for our youth.

Unfortunately this did not happen or at least did not happen to a level that equalled the much excitement the initiative received both locally and globally. While we can attribute this to various challenges ranging from resource challenges faced by government in training and marketing the initiative, to challenges of getting government agencies to release data to inadequate legal policy and mechanisms in place in the release of data or to a developer community that though skilled, enterprising and enthusiastic may have lacked the skills to visualize and mine the data or organization both corporate and non-corporate who simple just did not understand what this open data business was all about.

I personally think the main challenge was brokering the right partnerships by bringing some or all of these groups together and working towards finding opportunities or finding the challenges that would create opportunities around data. Not necessarily Govt. Data. We must give credit to the Govt for being a catalyst in releasing data even though more can be done but Open Data is not just Govt. Data. I believe it is about putting resources behind initiatives that act as catalysts in the open data and governance space.

This is where I believe the Code4Kenya Pilot Program has played that catalytic role. A 6 month program where 4 fellows are embedded as change agents in 3 media and one civil society Organization backed by 4 software developers that over the period of the program were able to change the mindset of these organizations to show them the value of data both outside and within their organizations. I am not going to take the thunder away from the real stars of this program the fellows and developers, I will let them tell their stories and speak of their achievements  I will say this though, for a pilot program the achievements have been exceptional be it with challenges mostly around getting access to data. Organizations are brokering partnerships and creating new business and revenue models. There are many lessons learned and we look forward to improving the next code4kenya. I would also like to congratulate the host organizations for taking a chance on this program and encourage them to invest in the applications that have been built and build on the enthusiasm that has been created within their organizations. I hope the other organizations present here today will be inspired to partner, fund, and be part of the next code4kenya fellowship program. As the open institute we are proud to be the implementing agents and  project managers for the Code4Kenya Pilot Program and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the two organizations with which this would not be possible the Africa Media Initiative and the World Bank for having the vision in creating and financing this program. Enjoy the Presentations thank you very much.

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