vendredi 2 mars 2012

Why Cameroon Urgently Needs Open data

Recently I had to write an article, and needed to find a very specific piece of information: the budget dedicated in 2011 by the Cameroonian Government to anti-poaching policies. I thought it would take me 10 to 15 minutes maximum to find it on the web. I finally did, by pure chance, after three hours and a half of unsuccessful efforts. This is precisely one of those moments when I ask myself "When will the government of my country be touched by the holy spirit of open data?"

Wordle 4 Transparency Camp 2010 - From

What is open data?

According to the Wikipedia definition, open data is a concept based on " the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control." It is declined in various fields, but let's focus on governance. I strongly believe that every decision made, every action taken in the name of the people of a country should be freely and publicly available to that people. Data are the only tangible elements that the people has to judge, evaluate its satisfaction of the social contract signed with the government it elected to run the country for a defined period, i.e. hold its rulers accountable for their policies. The only limit to this assumption is national security, which should be strictly interpretated, in my opinion. When talking about open data in governance, one can directly relate it to the notion of transparency, which I believe is the key to political and economic development (fr) on the African continent.

The example of Intra African Trade

Dr Bitange Ndemo, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications in Kenya, makes in the following video the link between governance, open data and transparency. According to him, the continent could make 400 billion USD per year if it developped intra-trade. But such thing is not possible for the moment, because of a lack of public data in most African countries. Taking the example of maize, he explains:

"We need Africa to put their data out, so that we can eliminate the many middlemen that we have, [who] make the cost of maize impossible, and the trading within Africa impossible."

"There is no continent that needs Opendata more than Africa"

I completely share that vision. And this does not only apply to trade. In a world of transparency, Cameroonian citizens for example have the right to know the exact amount of revenues generated thanks to oil exploitation, or the exact budget invested by the Government to renovation of public hospitals (if such budget even exists), etc. So many questions we could answer thanks to data, thus so many problems we could solve.

Yes. But let's not put the cart before the horse: the concept of transparency needs real democracy to blossom. Whether Cameroon is a real democracy or not, that is another debate...

2 commentaires:

  1. Belle vision Julie.
    le problème des données est encore plus profond et ce au sein des administrations camerounaises elles-mêmes. Même s'i existe un projet e-government au Cameroun,il est en bute à deux pesanteurs, la non-existence d'une véritable politique en matière d'accès à l'information. Comment vouloir mettre en place des pratiques d'open data dans un pays qui n'a même pas de vrais systèmes de classement et de documentation pour sa documentation physique existante.
    le fiasco qu'a été le vrai faux lancement du .cm en est une autre.
    J'aimerai chère Julie que tu observes le parcours de combattant du journaliste camerounais en quête de documents officiels. parfois un malheureux arrêté est inaccessible dans l'immédiat.
    La volonté politique est absente. La transparence gène dans un pays à haute corruption comme le nôtre. les pratiques actuelles ont le mérite d'entretenir le flou autour des données, et donc de décrédibiliser toute dénonciation de malversation.
    Demande toi le pourquoi de nombreux incendies observés de façon récurrente dans des bureaux précis de nos ministères.
    Comme tu l'as dit l'open data est un excellent outils pour faciliter le jeu démocratique et favoriser la transparence. Mais la transparence n'arrange pas grand monde par ici.

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