Promoting transparency and citizen participation through Open Data

Data can be defined as a series of observations, measurements or facts. When data is put in context, it becomes information. Open data, also known as linked data is data that is openly published online and is free for anyone to use, modify and share. In order for the data to be considered “Open,” it must be both technically open and legally open.

Technically Open Data.
To be technically open, data should be made available in a standard machine-readable format, which means that a computer application can retrieve and process it meaningfully. Open data should be easily accessible to the intended audience. For example, if the intended users are software developers and programmers, the data should be presented within the Application Programming Interface (API); if intended for academic researchers, the data can be structured in bulk download; and if intended for the average citizen, the data should be made available without requiring purchases of software.

Legally Open Data
To be legally open, data should be explicitly licensed to allow commercial and non-commercial use and re-use without restrictions.

Data has the power to revolutionize and disrupt the way societies are governed. None more so than open data, which is free to access, free to use and can be shared by anyone. It’s non-personal and can be used to identify and predict large-scale trends and behaviours. This is as opposed to closed data that is restricted to internal use by an organization. So the availability of open data creates opportunities for all kinds of organizations, government agencies and not-for-profits to come up with new ways of addressing society’s problems. These include predictive healthcare, planning and improving Africa’s public procurement.

According to the Open Data Barometer, which is a global snapshot of Open Government Data, 55% of the 92 countries surveyed had an Open Data Initiative. Less than 10% of the data sets surveyed were open, most of which are in the rich world: nearly half of the open data sets in the study are found in just 10 OECD countries, while almost none are in African countries. While many developing countries have pledged to open up more data— with 10 additional developing countries making open data commitments in 2015 — a shortage of resources and weak data infrastructure limit implementation.

In Uganda, the Public Procurement & Disposal Assets Authority – PPDA was one of the first public bodies in Uganda to publish open data through the Government Procurement Portal- GPP. The portal has 224 registered procurement entities and 118 entities have published their procurement plans in the current financial year 2019-2020. Best Evaluated Bidder Information and Sign Contract Information is also made available to the public through the tender notice information portal.

The future of open data is a collaborative process with the aim of providing civic benefits. Governments and organizations need to share their data and work together to create novel uses for it that make our lives easier or richer. Using data that describes the patterns behind how we live can help us solve problems in ways we might not have foreseen.

On 29th November 2019, member states of the East African Public Procurement Forum resolved to that each country should review their data systems and consider adopting Open Contracting Data Standards. Member states were encouraged to embrace the application of e-Government procurement systems, promote and strengthen the partnership between non-state actors and Regulatory Authorities in contract monitoring. This arose from the fact that disclosure of public procurement information is currently in formats that do not facilitate ease of usability, comparability, interoperability, and visualization. Also, the e-Government Procurement is not fully implemented within the East African countries.
Greater efficiency in processes and delivery of public services can be achieved through cross-sector sharing of data, providing faster and easy access to information; improving decision-making at all stages of development.

To summarize:
Open data: data that anyone can use, for any purpose, for free. Data Increases in value the more it is connected.

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