” The philosophy of open data has been in existence since the 20th century. What is new is the interpretation given to the term open data. The increasing interdependence among economies, organizations, and human beings in general, has necessitated an upward linear trend in the need for and use of data. The increasing need for and use of data have demanded for more data access and openness. These have made open data a popular concept today. The proliferation of internet and social media has also helped in popularizing the concept. Open government data is about government making data (unclassified) accessible to the citizens for use, reuse and distribution for free without any restrictions.
Open data has gained much attention in Nigeria in recent times. The importance of open data has become increasingly obvious in every aspect of life. Individuals have realized that with open data they can make informed decisions and engage strongly with the government. Private organizations have seen the significance of open data in helping them to save time and make smarter decisions. Civil society organizations know that with open data they can measure government’s performance and dialogue constructively with the government. Government has realized that the more accessible and open data becomes the more likely citizens are to understand and accept the government and share its values.
The first indigenous open data portal in Nigeria was launched (at the state level) by Edo state government in September 2013. The portal gives access to reliable and timely data on Edo state government, international organizations and non-state actors, and provides user-friendly ways to find and reuse the datasets. The portal has become a unique platform for various users, including policy makers, researchers, analysts, business leaders, and investors to obtain data about the state government and its partnering organizations. Though the portal laudably provides public users with hands-on access to about 90 datasets (which include but not limited to budget data, geo-data, census data, fiscal data, and project implementation data) the portal is deficient in data for main macroeconomic and socioeconomic indicators, and data analysis technology within the portal, which suggests that users are unable to perform multi-dimensional queries on various datasets or perform comprehensive analysis; hence limiting full citizen engagement. As a new initiative that is already threading on a commendable path, there is no doubt that the data portal will improve over time.
Prior to the launch of open data portal in Edo state, the African Development Bank (AFDB) had launched in March 2013 an open data portal for 20 African countries, including Nigeria, as part of its efforts in improving data management and dissemination in the continent. In the open data platform, Nigeria has its designated portal with user-friendly tool that enables users to extract data, create and share views as well as work with others, and visualize data across themes, sectors and countries. The portal provides access to a wide range of data, including but not limited to macroeconomic data, socio-economic data, and development data on Nigeria and other African countries from several international and national official sources. Users are enabled to visualize time series data over a period of time, perform comprehensive analysis, and make use of the ready-made presentation graphics. All these help to build an informed population of users and enhance citizen engagement.
With these nascent developments in open data in Nigeria, the Federal government has chimed in with the launch of Open Data Development Initiatives to give citizens enabling access to government in order to drive innovation, investment and economic growth. Though it is not clear the kind of data this initiative will make available, but the intensity of the goal suggests a comprehensive and advice-giving process that will make available without restrictions high value datasets from across government ministries, departments and agencies to all Nigerians, businesses and the rest of the world for free.
It is laudable that Nigeria has joined over 50 countries that have launched federal-level open data initiatives, and highly impressive that Nigeria has open data initiative at state-level. These signal the readiness of Nigeria to tap into the rich benefits of open data, particularly in the Global Positioning System (GPS) data, which a study by McKinsey indicated worth US$90 billion. The potential efficiency, innovations and economic value embedded in open data are overwhelming and transformative. It is my submission that government shouldn’t rest on its laurels but intensify efforts to bring other state governments aboard.” – Chukwuma Okonkwo – Abuja, Nigeria