An Action Plan Towards a “New Deal on Data” in Africa
Accelerating Open Data and Data Collaboration in Africa through Policy
Posted on 31st of May 2023 by Andrew Zahuranec, Stefaan Verhulst, Sampriti Saxena, Adrienne Schmoeker, Hannah Chafetz, Charlie Martial Ngounou
This blog details the proceedings of the second Open Data Action Lab focused on advancing open data and data collaboration in Africa through Policy. Learn more about the initiative by reading our Lab 1 blog post or visiting the Open Data Policy Lab website.
(See full list of participants that took part in the Open Data Action Lab below)
To help accelerate responsible data use across the African data ecosystem, AfroLeadership with the support of The GovLab hosted two Open Data Action Labs in March and April 2023 focused on advancing open data policy across Africa. The Labs brought together domain experts across the African data ecosystem to build upon the African Union’s Data Policy Framework and develop an instrument to help realize Agenda 2063.
The Labs included discussions about the current state of open data policy and what could be involved in a “New Deal on Data” across the African continent. Specifically, the Labs explored how open data across African countries and communities could become more:
- Purpose-led: how to strengthen the value proposition of and incentives for open data and data re-use, and become purpose-led?
- Practice-led: how to accelerate the implementation of open data and data re-use policies, moving from policy to practice?
- People-led: how to trigger engagement, collaboration and coordination with communities and stakeholders toward advancing data rights, community interests, and diversity of needs and capacities?
Following the Labs, the organizing team conducted a brainstorming session to synthesize the insights gathered and develop an action plan towards a “New Deal on Data” for Africa. Below we provide a summary of our action plan. The action plan includes four vehicles that could make progress towards becoming purpose-, practice-, and people-led. These include:
- A “New Deal” Observatory: An online resource that takes stock of the the current state of open data policies, barriers to implementation, and use cases from the local to continental levels
- A Community-Led Platform: A solutions platform that helps advance data stewardship across African countries and communities
- “New Deal” Investment: Supporting the development of locally sourced solutions and nuanced technologies tailored to the African context
- Responsible Data Stewardship Framework: A framework that open data stewards can use to support their existing efforts when looking to encourage or implement grassroots policies
This action plan is intended to be a collective effort where all open data ecosystem stakeholders are involved. The organizing team plans to continue to build upon this work with key stakeholders to solidify each vehicle. We welcome any feedback or suggestions.
4 Vehicles to Accelerate a “New Deal on Data”
1. A “New Deal” Observatory: Monitoring the current state of data policy and use cases
- Purpose-led: The observatory would take stock of existing open data practices (e.g. standards, principles, policies) and use cases from the local, regional, national, and supranational level. The documentation of these efforts could help data leaders communicate the value of open data to government leaders or investors. It could also be useful in identifying good models to build upon.
- Practice-led: The observatory would include a mapping of how open data and data re-use policies, data strategies, and open data frameworks have been implemented at each level of government and the actors involved. It also could serve as a guide for other organizations looking to implement open data policies.
- People-led: The observatory would depict the current state of data rights and community engagement around open data. It would provide more clarity around the problems that need to be solved and where additional local involvement should be prioritized.
- Leadership: Research community and Civil Society
2. A Community-Led Platform: Creating a network of data stewards across the continent
- Purpose-led: The platform would provide African data leaders the opportunity to share best practices and use cases for open data and data re-use across the African data ecosystem. It would also provide opportunities for ‘name and fame’ those doing laudable practices. These best practices would help generate awareness of how open data initiatives can impact the communities it intends to serve.
- Practice-led: Through its network of African data stewards, the platform could support data leaders from across Africa in identifying new collaboration opportunities and showcasing these collaborations on the platform (e.g. as detailed case studies explaining what assets and capabilities were needed to initiate them). The platform could rely on a trusted intermediary to certify the quality of data published through these collaborations.
- People-led: The platform could include a customized data stewards course for African data leaders to connect with like-minded peers. The course would discuss how to navigate common challenges across the continent and facilitate a data culture change from the ground up.
- Leadership: Open data practitioners
3. “New Deal” Investment: Funding Africa-led data-driven solutions
- Purpose-led: Many of the data-driven solutions that currently exist are not tailored to the African context and emerging technologies (e.g. generative AI) present new risks. Developing technologies that address Africa-specific needs could increase the demand for open data-driven innovations by the private sector and provide new use cases of how responsible data use can impact different communities.
- Practice-led: Funding could allow for the creation of new “responsible data sandboxes” in which practitioners can test new policies and evaluate the results. These sandboxes can ensure that new approaches to data responsibility meaningfully address risks, match public expectations, and do not discourage good reuse of data.
- People-led: This vehicle would include working with communities to develop responsible data-driven solutions that meet their needs. Creating new data-driven technologies from the ground up could help cultivate local literacy and engagement around open data, as well as build up the local civic tech communities.
- Leadership: Funding community
4. Responsible Data Stewardship Framework: Framing to Support Data Stewardship
- Purpose-led: This framework would help guide data stewards in defining the value proposition of their data initiative and connect the initiative to broader societal problems. It would support open data stewards in articulating why they are undertaking these initiatives and the value it could provide to different stakeholders.
- Practice-led: A set of resources to support data stewards would allow them to better engage with senior leaders in their communities, regions, and countries to advance data reuse practices that align with local expectations and norms. There could be an opportunity to foster meaningful conversations about what an “Africa-specific” approach to data and data governance is and how it differs from other approaches. Additionally, it could include guidance on making open data initiatives sustainable over time.
- People-led: The framework would provide guidance on how to collaborate with communities and engage in existing community-led forums (e.g. town halls or general meetings) to discuss responsible data use and data rights while acknowledging existing power asymmetries.
- Leadership: Policy community
List of Open Data Action Labs Participants
This content is the synthesis of discussions conducted through the Open Data Action Labs. No aspect of the above is attributed to any party. We thank the following individuals for participating in the discussions:
- Peter Addo, Head of Emerging Tech Lab, Agence française de développement (AFD) (French dev agency)
- Justin Arenstein, Founder, Code for Africa
- Kagonya Awori, Applied Scientist, Microsoft Africa Research Institute
- Jean-Paul Van Belle, Professor, School of IT at University of Cape Town
- Stephen Chacha, Co-Founder and Director — East Africa Hub, Tanzania Data Lab / Development Initiatives
- Asma Cherifi, Founder & CEO, African Leaders Nexus
- Houda Chihi, Chief Engineer, Tunisie Telecom
- Jake Okechukwu Effoduh, Chief Councillor, The Africa and Canada AI and Data Innovation Consortium
- Fabiola Frick, Advisor — Future of Work, GIZ Africa Union
- Alison Gillwald, Executive Director, Research ICT Africa
- Karim Hamza, Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences and Solvay Business School, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
- Maxime Heyndrickx, Digital for Development (D4D) Expert, Enabel (Belgian dev agency)
- Hanani Hlomani, Research Fellow, Research ICT Africa
- Michael Ngugi Kimani, Geospatial Data and Technologies Manager, Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD)
- Selemani Kinyunyu, Government Affairs Manager for Africa, Microsoft
- Avy Stéphane Koffi, Associate Professor, Peleforo Gon Coulibaly University (at Korhogo)
- Shiiwua Mnenga, Project Officer, Accountability Lab Nigeria
- José Monteiro, Co-Founder, data4MOZ
- Bitange Ndemo, Ambassador to Belgium & EU, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Government of Kenya / University of Nairobi
- Jean Philbert (Phil) Nsengimana, Advisory Board Chairperson, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership
- Muchiri Nyaggah, Executive Director, Local Development Research Institute (LDRI)
- Charlie Martial Ngounou, President, AfroLeadership
- Nnenna Nwakanma, Board member, International Digital Health and AI Research Collaborative (I-DAIR)
- Edwin Muhumuza, Head of Africa, Open Contracting Partnership
- Leonida Mutuku, Research and Strategy Lead, Africa Open Data Network (part of the Open Data for Development Network)
- Melissa Omino, Acting Director, Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) at Strathmore University
- Andrew Partridge, Senior Economist, Research ICT Africa
- Agnieszka Rawa, Managing Director, MCC Data Collaboratives for Local Impact
- Gabriella Razzano, Executive Director, OpenUp
- Andrew Rens, Senior Research Fellow, Research ICT Africa
- Gilbert Sendugwa, Executive Director, Africa Freedom of Information Centre
- Wairagala (Wakabi) Wakabi, Executive Director, Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
- Johannes Wander, Policy Advisor — DataCipation, GIZ Africa Union
We look forward to supporting several African data leaders operationalizing this Action Plan during our next Open Data Action Lab. If you have any feedback or want to be invited to the next Lab reach out to Stefaan Verhulst: [email protected].
Photo by Brent Ninaber | Unsplash is licensed under CC0.