What the global open data index shows about Africa

by Stephen Abbott Pugh
Oct 30, 2018 in Data Journalism

What open data is available from governments around the world, in what formats are the data available, and how can you easily find or use it?

Those are the questions answered by Open Knowledge which has recently published its third global open data index comparing available data from 122 countries to produce an annual international ranking.

From government spending and pollution emissions to procurement tenders and land ownership, the index sets standards for datasets which can be applied to any country, and then Open Knowledge’s global team of volunteers collects links to datasets which get rated in terms of how open and available they are. This makes it easier for anyone to see what open data is available for any country, and it provides links to datasets wherever they reside.

Taiwan topped the index for the first time in 2015, knocking the United Kingdom off the top slot after two years. Six countries in this year’s top 10 are European, alongside Colombia, Australia, Uruguay and the United States.

Overall this year’s index found that the data available was actually less open with only 9 percent of available data fulfilling the requirements of the Open Definition, down from 12 percent in 2014 although a larger number of datasets are listed for 2015.

At Code for Africa, we advocate for the release of better, more reliable open data from African governments by showcasing how that data can be made useful or valuable to normal citizens via SMS or simple web applications. Our team helped Open Knowledge collect details of open data available in South Africa, Rwanda and Kenya for the 2015 index.

Following the first Africa Open Data Conference in Tanzania in 2015, it is useful to look at how African countries performed in the index and what lessons they can learn from it, as many are shaping their open data policies.

Rwanda topped the African countries represented in the index, jumping 30 places from 2014 to come in 44th in 2015. The country is in the process of carrying out a public consultation on its first national open data policy and could learn lessons from the 2015 index in terms of areas where datasets could be made more open or more available.  

Meanwhile South Africa, which currently chairs the Open Government Partnership, dropped 18 places to 54th and needs to do more to make location, government spending and national mapping data available. It was followed in the rankings by Senegal, Burkina Faso, Benin and Kenya. Not all African countries were represented in the index but the poor performance of countries like Nigeria and Ethiopia shows that there’s a lot of progress still to be made.

Open data represents a significant business opportunity for many countries and there are international examples on how best to foster an open data community for countries looking to jump up the international rankings next year.

A study by PWC in the UK found that every pound invested in a business-focused open data challenge generated between £5 and £10 in value for the wider economy, while international initiatives like Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition demonstrate the improvements that open data can bring to agricultural and farming processes when all the actors work together to address challenges.

If you’re interested in open data in your country, check out how it performed in the 2015 index and click on the place name to get through to the country-specific page where you can find links to all available open datasets as well as suggested areas that your government could work on to improve their ranking for next year.

Stephen Abbott Pugh works on audience engagement strategies with Code for Africa. Learn more about his work as an ICFJ Knight Fellow here

Main image CC-licensed courtesy of peasap.