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Data portal gives citizens a tool to monitor government

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President Kibaki officially launches the Government Open Data Web Portal at KICC, Nairobi. The online publication of official data offers entrepreneurs fresh opportunity to make sound investment decisions based on  solid mapping of where demand is

President Kibaki officially launches the Government Open Data Web Portal at KICC, Nairobi. The online publication of official data offers entrepreneurs fresh opportunity to make sound investment decisions based on solid mapping of where demand is  



Posted  Tuesday, July 12  2011 at  00:00

Last week’s launch of an on-line portal with official data on key sectors of the economy has for the first time put in the hands of Kenyan citizens a powerful tool to monitor government activity in a way that has never been done before in this part of the world.

Though still missing key data such as the register of land titles or companies, the portal www.opendate.go.ke is a goldmine of information with data that every citizen – whatever their location or socio-economic and political interest will find most useful.

Apart from offering citizens a big mirror of what the government has been doing with their taxes, the data constitutes a good pointer as to how the national landscape might look 10 years down the line should the current expenditure patterns continue in the medium or long term.

Richest county

Many Kenyans will, for instance, be surprised to learn that since its inception in 2004, the government has spend the most money on education through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) in Isiolo and Lamu counties per capita and the least money in Kajiado – also classified as the richest county with a poverty incidence rate of 11 per cent.

While the low expenditure on education in Kajiado makes sense, one is left to wonder why the allocation to education through CDF is not equally robust in Turkana – the northern frontier district where the incidence of poverty is highest at more than 94 per cent.

Consumers of the data might also start to wonder what would happen to the quality and level of education in Isiolo and Lamu should the pattern of expenditure shown in the data continue in the next 10 years.

Publication of official data on this portal -- and the ongoing competition among technology entrepreneurs to come up with applications that can help citizens make sense of it – offers people with money a golden opportunity to make sound investment decisions based on solid mapping of where demand for a particular good or service is likely to be strongest.

Hostile destination

Already, one can tell that Nairobi, the Kenyan capital with a population of more than 3.1 million, a density of more than 4,000 people per square kilometre and a poverty incidence rate of 36 per cent makes for a very hostile destination those migrating to the urban areas for the first time.

Compared with other key towns such as Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret and Nakuru, the data clearly shows that new migrants are likely to find urban life most unbearable in Nairobi than in any of Kenya’s towns.

Competition is highest in the capital for jobs, shelter and social amenities such as housing increasing the likelihood that the quality of life will take a plunge for any new migrant to Nairobi.

The Business Daily plans to publish a series on this newly released data and will where possible offer explanations that give meaning to the numbers as carried on the official government site.