“We are living in the age of information where information is power where data access is a key factor for its effect. In light of this Ethiopia has legislation that anyone has the right to access data and some people in the country had expected that this condition would be favorable for the development of the free access for data.
From my experience and practical activities I have learned that as most people in Ethiopia are illiterate, there is no good culture to put data to access for the people. Even those who are educated do have poor tradition and system to store data and retrieve it to make it accessible for the community. It is mostly, not always, attributed by poor information technology infrastructure of the country.
If someone goes to the government offices to access data, it is common to get a response of ‘no data’ or ‘it takes time to get it, come back another time’ as data are not stored in a scientific and systematic way. On top of this, most government offices consider their office data as their sole property which do have no value for others. Therefore, someone has to pass lots of bureaucracies to access data in Ethiopia in government offices.
On the contrary, it is common to see the word ‘transparency’ displayed in office walls as one of the values of government offices. Government Medias also frequently talks about transparency and access to data in spite of the fact that the reality is to the opposite.
Most literate people do have better knowledge than the illiterates that everyone has the right to access data for a good purpose with limited restrictions in some cases.
It is undeniable that there is improvement in accessing data coupled with people’s awareness change on the right of accessing it in the country.
The situation is worse in private companies and organizations. Unless someone is a part of that organization/institution, getting data in the private sectors is quite complex task in Ethiopia. In some cases people my also provide incorrect data thinking that they will be blamed.
Many researchers in Ethiopia complain that most people do not give reliable data due to low understanding of the value of it. However, it is clear that data determines people’s life as they are sources for every decision.
Therefore, it is really high time to say ‘there should be suite environment to access data in the country both in the private and government offices’, without which the achievement of good governance would be unthinkable since the fundamentals behind the implementation of access to data and information and bringing about good governance both principally and practically are of the same nature.
Many people including me were accessing data and information for some cases but many complain that it is very complicated to get data from government offices due to the bureaucracy and unwillingness of officials. Except some cases, getting the government offices’ data on internet on different issues is unthinkable due to different constraints like poor information communication infrastructures and unavailability of the data.
It is expected that media and government work closely together and cooperate in many if not in all areas of endeavor in the country for better receiving and disseminating of information. In turn, Medias in most aspects provide information for the people.
To the contrary, it is common to see private medias complaining that the press law has prohibited them to provide data and information for the people.
I tried my level best to use the country’s legislation on access to data. Particularly, I am an advocator and practitioner in applying laws data related to individuals needs to be handled carefully and in accordance with the Data Protection Act of the country.
I strongly believe that the data available in my government could not be safe. Though the constitution states that people’s data should always be maintained and the privacy of individuals/organizations/institutions should be protected, individual’s data and information are frequently appearing in different publication without getting permission from individuals. I believe that someone may need to consider if there are any economic, social, security or political risks associated with the release of the data.
The country has a law how to use data owned by a third party (copyright material, software or database). Someone needs to understand the terms under which these are obtained and the scope of use. However, it is common in the country using data without obtaining permission from the data owner for re-use of such material.
In general, there is good understanding among the people and the government in the country that access to data is vital for decisions though accessing it is complicated task which shows only little improvement due to poor information technology infrastructure and low number of literacy rate in the country.” – Tadele Demissie – Amhara, Ethiopia