The weather has been great in Finland for the one week i have been, attending the Open Knowledge Foundation Festival #OKFest. I have met many great faces in the world of Open Data and Open Governance.
A lot has been discussed, very amazing visualizations, cool gadgets, people, platforms et al. This, though, had me thinking of the real impact of a lot of discussions that are going on.
Open data is really for the citizen. Forget the NET-izen, these represent a very small percentage of the real impact that needs to be created with/by opening up data (not just government data but data in general).
The contribution towards the success of open data is a partnership of various users and key in that partnership are the Citizens, Government, Private sector and Civil Society.
There have been a lot of campaigns and calls on governments to open up data and now over the past year, a lot more governments have opened up. Not all, but those that have bring about a clear great step forward. The question now is, what next? In my opinion, a lot more effort needs to be put in to create more use of the data but most importantly to involve the common citizen, the little guy that does not care about technology, or the idea of raw data, or fancy gadgets but, the guy that needs to know why things happen the way they do, why his crops are not doing well or why her children’s education is not improving, why the market rates are expected to rise/fall and maybe what the impact of the government’s budget process has been over the years.
There are many recommendations to what needs to happen but on this specific post i will focus more on the Media as the channel that can make this happen.
Open Data is a collection of juggled up facts that may affect everyone in no particular order. Through the decades, the media has been the source of “Truth”. All media put together (this is not proven but you would think) has 98%+ reach to the people. Is it possible to work with media to use Open Data to deliver messages (and by extension the released data) to the general public?
There are very few people with access to computers. A lot of other people have access to the mobile phone device but very few (if any) studies have shown how many people have the actual phone literacy that goes beyond green and red buttons to start and end calls.How much more interest do they have to go beyond?
Through traditional media (Radio, TV and Newspapers) that still commands a very big percentage in market share, Open Data projects can reach out to more people in a language that they understand and in a channel that is already available to them.
Training and encouraging journalists to do data based journalism and using easy to understand visuals in their reporting to avoid all the jarnon
When i get back home, this is going to be the mission of the Kenya Open Data project for the remainder of the year. Interpreting Open Data into a format that is more relevant and reaching out to the common citizen.