The Underplayed Outcomes of Kenya Open Data Initiative.
October 23, 2014 — 12:10

Many reports have been written about The Kenya Open Data Initiative and how it has died.

Many have questioned how government projects run and if Open Data in Kenya is facing the same fate.

What a lot of people have not realized is that beyond the portal open data is a concept. Open Data Initiatives all around the world are about governments making their data freely and publicly accessible. The beauty of open data portals is they consolidate the data and put it within a single URL so the user does not have to remember multiple addresses but open data as a concept….

Definition: Open data is data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike. – Source: Open Data Handbook

In no place, in this definition and many other definitions is there a mention or a requirement that Open Data must exist within one portal.

Various ministries within government have made their data publicly available through their own web portals and while we are working on legislation and policy to change that, there is nothing that requires them to make their data available through the open data portal except for goodwill.

To name a few examples:

  • The ministry of agriculture and fisheries makes available all market data on the sale of commodities in all major markets on a daily basis.
  • The Kenya national bureau of statistics has made a ton of data available including the statistical abstracts and economic surveys all the way from the 60s
  • The ministry of health makes available all data about the health facilities in the country, what services they offer, how stocked they are, capacity: beds, doctors, nurses
  • The Kenya open data initiative (KODI) has made important information like CDF expenditures, demographics, poverty rates, education etc available

These are just but a few examples and these particular examples actually make the data available in open formats. We are always working to ensure that all this data can exist within one portal.

The KODI portal has had over 4 million views since its inception in 2011 and I can almost say this is the most viewed government website as shown below for this year:

Page views Open Data Jan - Sept 2014

Source: Kenya Open Data Analytics.


That said, Kenya, like many other countries with an open data initiative hosts a big load of data within one portal (the one that has everyone confused about what open data is) but this portal so far has had tremendous results of access and as much as the data available is not breaking news, has brought to light a lot of data that would normally not be accessible to the public without written consent from the host government organization.

The Open Data Initiative has not come without challenges and to understand these challenges, read my post where I talked about why Kenya Open Data is taking so damn long!

The reason I decided to write this post is to bring out some of the benefits of the ideas of open data within government and other organizations that I am sure would have taken longer to be realized if the initiative had not been launched in 2011.


The Access to information and Data Protection bills were crafted in 2006 and since then, they had been in negotiation and basically were shelved for a while. After the inception of Open Data in 2011, the debate on the two bills was rekindled in 2012 and in september 2014, the cabinet, chaired by the president approved the two bills that are now waiting for the final parliament approval to become law.


Before the open data ideas, there was no policy guiding how data should be shared or made available within government. I am happy to report that since open data, the ICT Authority is working on a policy for data sharing, the KNBS has a policy in place and many other ministries are looking at these conversations.


Have you stopped to ask why government is heavily digitizing its records? Access. Transparency. Openness. Many government agencies including the civil registry departments on births and deaths, ministry of education, Ministry of health are now heavily digitizing to not only save on storage space but also make the data publicly and easily accessible.


A lot of government institutions collect data every so often. There are departments within departments and the way it happened, everyone would collect their own data in their own format using their own codes and fields. Since the inception of open data for instance, the World Bank gave the Ministry of Education $1 million to create an integrated education database that would implement a standardized way of data collection and naming. This data was to be made available through the open data portal, the process is ongoing.

Data Literacy:

Through the Open Data movement, a lot of companies have been formed in Kenya to utilize open data and citizen awareness. Organizations like Open Institute, Code4Kenya, iHub Research, Mzalendo, DataScience utilize open data in a lot of their activities both nationally and at the county level.

The media has not been left behind. Data journalism like the fantastic work Internews is doing in Kenya, a lot of it relies on open data from the government. NTV has done a few features that have been based on data from KODI and other government sources to name but a few.


We come from a history of no sharing. The traditional secrets act has been in place since the 70s and still going. Most recently (2012), Kenya joined the Open Government Partnership with her key mandate being using open data to be transparent and more engaging with citizens. I can confidently say that over the past 4 years we have seen great  information flows from government than ever before. We do not yet have everything, but something  sure is happening.

Most of these government systems have been in existence for decades and have created a government culture that will take a while to dilute but the milestones that the idea of an open government have achieved cannot be underplayed.

So, my question to those saying open data is dead, what exactly do you mean? What is open data in your definition and what signifies its death?

Open data is not an end in its self, it is a small cog in a big big machine and maybe i am privileged because i experience this progress everyday but i would say, look a little more critically before you throw stones.


Comparing Kenya’s To Selected Lower-Middle-Income Economies.
October 17, 2014 — 10:06

So with a recalculation of its GDP, Kenya effectively became a lower-middle-income economy.

According to the World Bank, a lower-middle-income economy is one where the GNI per capita falls between $1,045 and $4,125. After the 25% upward revision of Kenya’s GDP, Kenya’s GNI per capita is put at $1,160, just above the $1,045 cut-off point.

But does that paint the true picture of the economy and the well being of the population?


Poverty Rate

Unemployment rate

Urban population

Debt to GDP


Comparing Kenya’s to other economies within the same economic class from Asia (India), Europe (Ukraine) and Africa (Egypt) in areas such as poverty rate, unemployment, Debt to GDP ratio, Urbanization and contribution of manufacturing sector to the overall GDP, Kenya still lags behind.

A large proportion of Kenyans remain unemployed at 40%, well higher compared to the the rest; the economy is still dependent on subsistence agriculture; while a high poverty rate despite an average middle-income indicates high income disparities.

Housing In Kenya
October 10, 2014 — 8:57

Shelter is a basic human right. The quality of housing in Kenya is not only dependent on income level, but on Government policy, availability of building materials, cultural practices, weather and access to financing.

Govt expenditure on Housing

The widening gap between amount allocated for housing and actual amount spent on housing over the last two years is worrying considering the low quality of housing in some parts of the country.

NHC Loans

Looking at the disparity between the county with largest amount of National Housing Corporation loan advanced, Kajiado, and the fifth, Kisumu could lead to a varied number of conclusions, albeit with the knowledge that the NHC is only a single player in the real estate financing sector.

Housing materials

The type of material used does not necessarily point to income level but plays a significant role in access to utilities like electricity, improved water and improved sanitation; and shows how protected the occupants are from bad weather conditions and environmental hazards.

Kenya’s GDP After Rebasing
October 3, 2014 — 13:00

Kenya’s economy is now the 9th largest in Africa, up from 12th, after the recent announcement of the rebased GDP figures which raised the GDP level by 25.3%. This is behind Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Angola, Morocco, Libya and Sudan.

Old and New GDP

African Countries Change in GDP

World Carbon Emissions
September 26, 2014 — 13:19

The UN Climate Summit 2014 was opened earlier this week. This then would be a good time to remind ourselves that global warming is real; that due to avoidable human activities, among other effects, the Earth’s average temperature has increased by about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the 20th century.

This may seem minimal but is significant in that global average temperatures remain constant over long periods and small changes have vast effects on the environment. To put this into context, at the end of the ice age, the global average temperatures were only 5-9 degrees cooler than today!

carbon emission

Despite Africa contributing only 3.6% of total global CO2 emissions, it stands to suffer the most from the effects with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), projecting that by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people living in Africa will be exposed to increased water stress; rain-fed agricultural production could be reduced by up to 50 percent; and access to food may be severely compromised in the continent. This, in the words of Desmond Tutu, is a steep injustice.

Charts: County Skill Level and “Poverty” Rates
September 18, 2014 — 15:02

There exists disparities in the level of education within counties. Looking at the list of the counties with highest proportion of skilled population – calculated as population with more than secondary level education – Nairobi leads the way. But that would be due to migration of skilled labor from other counties to look for employment.

From the next chart, you notice how skill level and poverty rates compare in some selected counties.

But knowing how poverty rate is calculated, what does it mean for counties inhabited by nomadic pastoralist communities who own large herds of cattle but with no income in the conventional sense?

poverty rates and cattle owned

In counties like Turkana, for instance, inhabitants own large herds of cattle (around 1.5 million) yet still ranked as having the highest poverty rate in Kenya (88%).

African Countries with Access to Information Laws.
September 16, 2014 — 16:05

A few weeks ago, the Kenyan Cabinet gave their green light for the enactment of the Access to Information and Data Protection bills that have been in discussion since 2006.

Below is a map of 23 African Countries that already have Acccess to Information laws that make data access easier for their citizens. Hopefully Kenya will be Joining pack soon! :)

Kenya as a Single Map of Her Infrastructure
September 16, 2014 — 13:24

Kenya as a single map of her Major Infrastructure and resources.
– Administrative boundaries
– Population
– Major Towns
– Electricity Grid
– Roads
– Railways
– Under sea cable
– Hydro-power dams

View larger map

Making Sense of Africa’s Middle Class – Standard Bank Definiton.
September 15, 2014 — 13:22

There has been a lot of talk about the African Middle class and looking at the amount of attention this issue has received, there is something there.

A few weeks ago, the Standard Bank released a new report mapping Africa’s middle class ecosystem, which went in contrary to what the African Development Bank (AFDB) had predicted in 2010. AFDB was very ambitious with their numbers but check out the chat below for a few select countries’ popupation, Standard bank projections 2014 and 2030 with AFDB’s 2010 report.

Feel free to leave a comment.

Literacy rates from selected countries
September 11, 2014 — 14:05

The world marked the International Literacy day earlier this week.

According to the UN, literacy is one of the key elements needed to promote sustainable development, as it empowers people so that they can make the right decisions in the areas of economic growth, social development and environmental integration.

Literacy rate is defined as the percentage of total population over the age of 15 that can read and write.

But how literate is the Kenyan population and how does it compare to its neighbors, the rest of Africa and the world in general?

Notice how well Zimbabwe is doing, easily amongst the best in Africa. Germany and Luxembourg typify the situation in Western Europe. Afghanistan and Burkina Faso, on the other hand, rank as the most illiterate populations in the world.

Breaking it down by gender, we see just how glaring the disparity is. We can get the Gender Parity Index -dividing the female figure by the male figure – for literacy in the selected countries to get a clear view. The closer to 1 the index is, the more gender-equal the population is in terms of literacy.

Brazil is particularly interesting: the female population is more literate compared to the male population!