The Kenyan government led by President Kibaki and the Ministry of Information and Communication is expected to launch and initiative to avail public data which has so far remained private, public. The whole process supported by World Bank will kick off at KICC at around 10am.

The move to avail such data has been welcomed by the youth and researchers who have struggled to get the data out of the government vaults. Questions are though being raised on the manner in which the process is being undertaken and the camaraderie involved in giving out contracts to those working on the data.

The Kenya ICT board which is the focus institution on this is seen as favouring friends and former colleagues of Paul Kukubo at 3Mice interactive. The friends have dominated contracts and assignments awarded out by the Kenya ICT Board. When I put out the question to him, some of the friends were arrogant in their involvement in various ministry of information contracts.

Questions are also being asked on why the government did not call for a local developer to design a platform(s) which would support the data which will be released. The government yesterday launched an initiative in which all parliamentary hansard were loaded onto Google servers. It would have just cost a little amount for the government to have a team of dedicated young people working on a platform and also supporting the platform(s).

PS Ndemo said that the government is initially working with the available platforms which are mostly foreign but it will be looking for future input from the local developers. The platform to be unveiled by the President tomorrow at KICC will see county and national data in a central place to be accessed by all.

When prodded if we will see secretive data like military data on the platform, PS Ndemo said “now we are pushing to far. Lets start to walk”. The launch event is open to all. It is otherwise a great idea to open government held data to all. I wish the private sector would also be a bit much more open.

You can access the open data platform here.

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    Unfortunately, important policy questions arise when, for example, a government’s critical information and services is no longer under its full control and may even be outside of its borders, resulting in it being accessible by other governments through search warrants or other such legal mechanisms (under the law of the data center in which the data is being hosted). Examples abound of police bodies of many countries accessing data centers as part of an investigation and simply carting away servers from the data centers and knowingly or not, taking data from multiple sources with them, including data of foreign governments. Many government officials may not be aware of this threat but most IT professionals certainly should be. Essentially, a government is losing sovereignty over their data and IT systems.

    Nowadays, public sector institutions wishing to benefit from Cloud Computing will probably find themselves in one of two situations:

    they already have abundant data center infrastructure and IT systems but are seeking to benefit from the advantages of Cloud Computing in general or for specific applications, platforms or services;
    they do not yet have any significant or reliable infrastructure or IT systems to satisfy the needs of a modern government services provision and are therefore looking to put it in place.
    In both cases they are seeking the most effective approach to evolving at least some of their information systems towards Cloud Computing and other forms of outsourcing but both cases also suffer from the lack of retention of true sovereignty over their data.