NAIROBI, January 30, 2013—New digital applications developed by the media and the civil society are making it easier for Kenya citizens to find the best schools and health centers, as well as monitor crime trends and election issues.
The innovative internet-based applications were developed and hosted by three media houses and a non-governmental organization under the Code4Kenya. Code4Kenya is an initiative which is supported by the World Bank’s Innovation Fund in partnership with the African Media Initiative and the Open Institute.
“These new applications demonstrate how developers are using Kenya’s Open Data to communicate complex issues in a simple way,” said Dr Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary for Information and Communication, said during the launch of the new applications. “Data is quickly transforming the lives of the people and we have an opportunity to build a knowledge economy in which citizens make informed choices to improve their quality of life.”
The platforms were developed by four fellows and a team of developers who were selected from over 270 applicants who participated in a competitive selection process last year. They enrich the Kenya Open Data ecosystem, which has created a significant number of applications since President Mwai Kibaki launched the Kenya Open Data portal in July 2011.
One of the new platforms, developed and hosted by the Nation Media Group, enables journalists to use open data for articles on health, education and infrastructure, which are key issues ahead of Kenya’s March 4, 2013 elections. The Standard Media Group is hosting a platform for visualizing and monitoring crime trends in the country while the Star focuses on integrating health statistics. Twaweza, a NGO, has developed an application that will enable parents to choose the best schools for their children by comparing schools on various metrics, including performance in national examinations.
"The Code4Kenya project demonstrates in an apt manner how technology can serve the larger interests of citizens when put in the hands of media professionals." said Amadou Mahtar Ba, CEO of Africa Media Initiative (AMI). “Where technology helps visualize the issues in our societies, it is imperative that media practitioners have the necessary skills to report on them and interpret them for audiences. We are now embarking on scaling and replicating this project around the continent as it definitely helps bring about journalism that matters.” Ba added.
The initiative tests a model to foster widespread use of Kenya’s open data, by embedding fellows in the media and civil society organizations that can sustain and scale the applications that they build with support from the fellows.
“The media is championing an important role in making open data benefit citizens,” said Christopher Finch, the World Bank’s Senior Social Development Specialist in Nairobi. “This is the first sustained attempt in Africa to make open data relevant and usable by citizens, and it can potentially play a role in shifting the development policy debate towards development results.”
The media and other info-mediaries were challenged to address the demand side of data by creating user-friendly applications and visualizations that enable citizens to easily access data from government and other providers. This will empower the citizens to make decisions and also bridge the digital divide. Media managers promised to support the new initiative and scale it up to make it have a sustainable impact on the citizens and the economy.
Jay Naidoo, former South African Minister for Communications, described open data as the foundation of democracy. It improves the certainty of policy and regulation, leading to better quality of life, he said.
“The media is an important infomediary between data sources and citizens,” said Paul Kukubo, Chief Executive of the Kenya ICT Board. He challenged the media to shape public opinion by increasing evidence-based reporting by rigorously analyzing and interpreting data.
Code4kenya is part of the Kenya open data incubator initiative, supported by the World Bank, involving many partners including iHub-Research, Strathmore University’s @iLab-Africa and the Kenya ICT Board.
For more information about the new apps, please visit: