How Open Data and Civil Responsibility Can Change Sierra Leone

The discussion was had on October 3rd, 2017 on the correlation between “Open Data” and civil responsibility in order to bring positive social change and promote economic steadfastness in Sierra Leone. Through town hall style interactions like the one Sensi Tech Hub hosted can foster a system of continuing discussions to improve the effectiveness of creating and implementing data sharing environment in Sierra Leone.

The “Open Data” environment will increase transparency and accountability across Government by bringing Government activities closer to citizens. This ‘one stop shop’ is expected to be a major data hub for all things Sierra Leone spanning from data on the fight against corruption to a platform for the public to meaningfully engage with Government. At the forefront of the minds of its architects was a need to further open government by improving information asymmetries and increasing access for all. These civic engagement activities are organized for citizens, civil society organizations, development partners, researchers, Government officials, tourists, etc. to exchange information about Sierra Leone in a transparent, inexpensive and interactive manner.

Allowing key stakeholders to cross pollinate their ideas will improve the quality of information sharing. It raises the potential of a mistake free platform that is easy to improve.
Sensi Tech Hub has been a major player in making the “Open Data” environment a reality by training staffs of different ministries on using the portal. Through key partnerships like the World Bank, OSIWA and other important contributors, Sensi is equipping officials with the tools to make “Open Data” communities a reality. And with the addition of Russ Kline we will see a different dimension of quality coming from Sensi.

 

Russ Kline                                                                  Morris Marah (3rd from Left)

During the presentations by Russ Klein and Morris Marah on November 3rd, 2017, a couple of refreshing ideas and comments were shared between ministry officials and Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) where they both vowed better communication and collaboration: Putting the need for information accessibility at the forefront of the conversation.

Another aspect of the talk was the need to protect the privacy of the general public by keeping the data from fraudulent activities that could compromise the trust of citizens. Other ideas were also mentioned i.e. an opt-in or opt-out system that would allow citizens the opportunity to keep their information private.

In so many words Sensi’s focus is on the burgeoning field of “data intermediaries” — the organizations helping connect data experts to nonprofits and government agencies by providing training that aims to develop capacity of ministries and organization’s staff and contact at other ministries to use and manage Sierra Leone’s Open Data environment. And by capacitating ministries, the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) can take over management and eventually maintenance of the community.

For more about Sensi and what they are doing visit their next workshop on November 10, 2017 about the upcoming Sierra Leonean Presidential Election.

Wusu Dumbuya Jr.

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