The impact of a move towards Open Data in West Africa

 at the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs:  “The concept of “open data” is not new, but its definition is quite recent. Since computers began communicating through networks, engineers have been developing standards to share data. The open data philosophy holds that some data should be freely available for use, reuse, distribute and publish without copyright and patent controls. Several mechanisms can also limit access to data like restricted database access, use of proprietary technologies or encryption. Ultimately, open data buttresses government initiatives to boost innovation, support transparency, empower citizens, encourage accountability, and fight corruption.

West Africa is primed for open data. The region experienced a 6% growth in 2014, according to the Africa Development Bank. Its Internet user network is also growing: 17% of the sub-Saharan population owned a unique smartphone in 2013, a number projected to grow to 37% by 2020 according to the GSMA. To improve the quality of governance and services in the digital age, the region must develop new infrastructures, revise digital strategies, simplify procurement procedures, adapt legal frameworks, and allow access to public data. Open data can enhance local economies and the standard of living.

This paper speaks towards the impact of open data in West Africa. First it assesses open data as a positive tool for governance and civil society. Then, it analyzes the current situation of open data across the region. Finally, it highlights specific best practices for enhancing impact in the future….(More)”