Barcamp 2011: Technology experts convene to discuss ‘open governance’

The iHub lab in Nairobi. Kenya has immense potential for the technology business. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI
The iHub lab in Nairobi. Kenya has immense potential for the technology business. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI 

Technology experts are camping at Nairobi’s ihub and Nailab to discuss 'role of open data in governance'.

The theme of discussion stems from the recent launch of an open data portal in Kenya by the government where for the first time, Kenyans were able to have information about their community at their fingertips allowing them to make informed decisions at a personal level.

In the pre-open data era, most decisions people made were not scientific since they were not based on data yet data was available but inaccessible.

The open data website has already attracted international limelight and Kenya has earned position on the global map of open society.
The country became the first in sub-Saharan Africa to avail government open data.

Open data leads to open knowledge as citizens are allowed access to the information about problems facing their countries and seek ways to solve the problems.

With open data gone are the days where hoarding of information was the norm in government circles.

Public data will no longer be kept in shelves to gather dust and in formats unusable by the general public.

In the open data portal the Kenya government released several large datasets, including the national census and statistics on government spending at national and county level to enhance transparency in governance and access to information.

The data presented in user- friendly format is available online via a portal ( recently launched by President Mwai Kibaki in Nairobi.

Open data creates a powerful relationship between data providers and application developers and promotes transparency in government.

These are among the issues that participants in this year’s Barcamp are expect to explore as they take the debate to another level.

Starting Saturday, the experts convene under the umbrella of Nairobi Barcamp 2011, which is an open participatory workshop where the agenda is set by participants.

This year, Barcamp Nairobi celebrates its 5th birthday. From 50 campers in 2007 the event has exploded to 600 campers in 2010 and the number is expected to rise this weekend.

The procedural framework for Barcamp consists of sessions proposed and scheduled each day by the attendees. Unlike classical conference formats, Barcamp relies on passion and responsibility of the participants.

It is a geek ‘unconference’ born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment.

History of the barcamp

The first Barcamp Nairobi was held on March 31 2007 at the University of Nairobi.
The first talk at this Barcamp was on the fastest car in the world then, the Bugatti Veyron.

Since then, Barcamp Nairobi has included a wide range of topics from tech-heavy ones like Cloud Computing Applications in Kenya and Linux as a Development Platform for Engineers to those that are delightfully unique like How To Make The Perfect Cappuccino and Using My GPS Enabled Cell phone To Avoid Traffic.

From a couple of hours on one afternoon in a single room, Barcamp Nairobi now runs over a whole weekend, morning to evening, in venues at the heart of the Kenyan tech community with over 100 very influential local and international bloggers making up a key part of the audience.

Although the event has changed beyond recognition the key values remain the same; sessions proposed and scheduled each day by attendees, all attendees are encouraged to present or facilitate a session, everyone is also asked to share information and experiences of the event via public web channels, attendance is typically monetarily free and generally restricted only by space constraints.