Can Open Data Keep Politicians In Africa Accountable?

Can Open Data Keep Politicians In Africa Accountable?

Can Open Data Keep Politicians In Africa Accountable?
We ran a quick Twitter poll on the iAfrikan account a day before the 2016 Presidential elections asking our followers if they think open gaovernment data can help in keeping governments and policticians accountable.

Not only were those agreeing and those not quite close but interesting to note is the percentage of those who considered the answer “What if the data is rigged?”

Furthermore, one of our followers (Steve Song) voiced their opinion stating that Open Government Data can’t help keep politicians accountable, he elaborated further in his tweet.

Given how President Museveni of Uganda won the elections despite electoral commission showing evidence of not only ghost voters, but ghost polling stations and suggested voters register data manipulation.

What does all this mean for the continent where so many Open Data initiatives in the governance sector are underway?

Open Data for government records is not foreign to Africa, there are various open government initiatives across the continent with some having the purpose of informing citizens with the hope of keeping politicians in power accountable.

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The messy reality of open data and politics

In South Africa for example, you have People’s Assembly.

Public Data on Member of Parliament as per People’s Assembly Data

A website, which in its own words, “aims to promote accountability and bridge the gap between ordinary people and their elected representatives. It seeks to promote a greater public voice and enhance public participation in politics by providing information about our elected representatives and the institutions they serve, and even allow you, the citizen, to provide feedback.”

Despite the wealth of public representatives data that Peoples Assembly shares on its website, it seems it is not that well known of among people who really need to know what their political representatives are up to, the voting public.

Despite pre-election data from the Electoral Commission raising questions of flawed elections, Yuweri Museveni has gone on to extend his thirty year streak as Uganda’s president. Tweet

In Kenya, you then have Mzalendo, which can summarized as an online platform looking to “keep an eye on Kenya’s parliament and public representatives”.

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The Call For Personal Open Data

Public Data on Senator as per Mzalendo Data

How Mzalendo does this is by distilling and providing the relevant information about Kenya’s National Assembly and Senate to the public.

There’s also projects such as Budgit in Nigeria which aims to simplify the Nigerian budget for the Nigerian public and tries to influence public budgets being used for the good of the people.

Yet, despite all of Budgit’s efforts, the 2016 Nigerian budget is alleged to have been “padded” by corrupt officials so they can siphon some of the budget for their own benefit.

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