By Mohamed Massaquoi from the U.S.
Sierra Leone’s Open Government Partnership (OGP-SL), in collaboration with the Open Government Initiative (OGI) and its civil society partners, has concluded a one-day interactive forum with the International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation at the organization’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Civil society activists and human rights groups, including representatives from the World Bank, critically discussed open data system as a transformational trend in open governance, which is geared towards empowerment and economic growth around the world.
IBM and the U.S. government were excited to have hosted the one-day Open Data Jam alongside the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit to share global experiences in open data publishing, real use cases that demonstrate growth and empowerment, develop skills, capabilities, and build a global community of open data developers who can help Africa become an open data continent.
The event was designed for participants to interact with people with diverse skills and experiences in order to showcase real live examples of how open data works, African challenges and opportunities, example applications.
Director of OGI, Madam Khadija Sesay, said she was pleased to interact with members of the U.S. State Department and IBM to discuss issues around open data.
“It is significant to note that open data would strengthen development in Africa by effectively managing scarce water resources, improving land use and agricultural security, enhance transportation and traffic flows, and more importantly generate new high-tech jobs and tax revenues in Africa, with specific reference to Sierra Leone,” she said.
While presenting a paper on the ‘Value of Open Data system’, the U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Nick Sinai, said the White House is leading efforts to make more government data publicly available and easier to find and use, adding that the U.S. government agencies should publish a list of all of their public data for the benefit of citizens.
The Under Secretary for U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ms. Catherine Woteki, said the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative seeks to support global efforts to make agricultural and nutritionally relevant data available, accessible, and usable for unrestricted use worldwide.
She said the initiative focuses on building high-level policy and public and private institutional support for open data, as well as encourages collaboration and cooperation among existing agriculture and open data activities without duplication, and brings together all stakeholders to solve long-standing global problems in agriculture.
National Coordinator of the Sierra Leone Open Government Partnership, Amadu Massally, said frantic efforts have been made by Sierra Leone to meet OGP standards.
He said the country has been implementing most of the OGP benchmarks through the Open Government Initiative, adding that OGP-SL is more than determined to putting together a national action plan, which would be informed by consultations both within and out of the country so that Sierra Leoneans can actively participate in the process.
He noted that although Sierra Leone is a new member of the OGP, yet there are plans to establish an Open Data School to help build skills and knowledge in open data system as part of the OGP Country Action Plan.
“The School of Data will educate data users and producers who will focus on open budgets, contracts, access to information, extractive industries, gender and education to help civil society members and journalists to boost their data capacities and transfer skills and experiences to enable and empower growth through data expeditions across Sierra Leone,” Massally said, adding that data expeditions would combine learning by doing and working with real data in participatory learning events that bring new skills to diverse needs.