It has been proven by various scholars that information rules the world. As a matter of fact, the reason why the world is still evolving is because its inhabitants have stayed informed by digging for more information on daily basis through research findings and empirical facts from art, science and technology. Imagine a world without information it would be an uninteresting planet. In the same vein, knowledge is gradually becoming free and accessible to all, except for those who are not willing to acquire more so as to be become better, which could be quite precarious for their existence because knowledge is power! The advent of Information Communication Technology (ICT) has made all these, one big reality. ICT has also brought about what I could term “Total Revolution” into the world of information sharing and management.
However, with these increased opportunities to acquire more knowledge and unlimited access to information across the world at our disposal, how do we plug into these unlimited opportunities in order to achieve a better world that we desire? This is one big question that we all still seeking answers to. United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which had been set since fifteen years ago were put place with the aim to providing answers to this question. New set of goals are already in the pipeline which is Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will soon be set in motion by September 2015 in New York, but this time around with more goals than the previous one, all of these are toward achieving a better world. UN’s My World Global Survey carried out in 2014 which formed the SDGs revealed through 7 millions people what the world really wants. The five top priorities of the survey were better job opportunities, affordable and nutritious meal, a good education, and honest and responsive government.
What UN has been able to achieve through this survey is the measurement of the impacts of the MDGs in the last fifteen years in determining the next development agenda which is the SDGs through the use of information gathering and data from 7 million people. That is the power of information through the application of data. Thus, we now live in one global village where data collection, data scrapping, data collation and analysis as well as visualization are used as determining factor for major developmental processes and decisions at various levels of human endeavours which is quite logical.
Recent findings have also shown that open data world is a better world for all. What does that mean? Quite a number of countries around the world today are still developing, struggling and wallowing in deprivation of basic human needs for their citizens. Reasons for this have been adduced to lack of responsive governance, corruption, poor education structure and lack of basic healthcare amongst others. So how would they make their government responsive to their needs? How would they curb corruption and achieve equitable distribution of wealth and resources amongst their citizens? All these and more are some of the challenges that could be solved if information gathering and open data are embraced by these countries.
In the western world, open data policies have been embraced long ago and have formed part of the basis upon which most social development and political decisions are premised. For instance, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) such as Indigo Trust, Centre for Investigative Journalism and Open Knowledge Foundation in the United Kingdom (UK) have been on the vanguard promoting and creating various platforms for Open Data activities around the world. One of such of platforms is School of Data, an initiative of Open Knowledge Foundation, UK.
In Africa, however, the story is different. Albeit gradually steps are being taken by the CSOs, Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other concerned bodies in ensuring that knowledge and information gathering via the entrenchment of open data policy at various level of governments is the way forward particularly towards achieving a better world that is free of depravation, strife and poverty. Parts of these issues were prominently discussed at last Open Data Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia earlier this year. Some of the key action areas identified and highlighted by the open data community for the input to the African data consensus were Geo-spatial data/geo-referencing of data, use of satellite data to improve agriculture, to aid the mitigation of the effects of climate change as well as to increase capacity of countries to use this data.
In addition, open budget data and giving power to NGOs by building their capacity on Open Data would also enhance service delivery in governance. In Nigeria, non-profit organisations such as Connected Development [CODE] and BudGiT have taken advantage of legalized opportunities available to promote the knowledge and use of Open Data in Nigeria. CODE for example created “Follow The Money” platform, leveraging and utilizing the Freedom of Information Act to request information meant for public knowledge from private and government organizations to ensure accountability in the use of public funds. And this platform has been so effective and productive holding government accountable for inefficient service delivery. Open data policy would promote transparency and accountability which would in turn enhanced national development of countries in Africa and across the world thereby creating a better world for all.