Code for Africa - Building Demand-driven + Citizen-focused Open Data Ecosystems
An overview of the Code for Africa initiative, which embeds technologists into newsrooms / CSOs, with support from external teams of developers, tech incubators, and kickstarter funds, to help rewire the way that civic engagement happens.
civ·ic /ˈsivik/ Adjective 1. Of
or relating to a city or town, esp. its administration; municipal. 2. Of or relating to the duties or activities of people in relation to their town, city, or local area. We are guided by the 2nd definition. We are a grassroots-driven and demandfocused movement that seeks to build active citizenry by strengthening civic watchdogs and creating new avenues for civic engagement to help shape better public governance & public services. http://CodeForAfrica.org
Pipeline strategy: To build a
selfsustaining ecosystem, you need catalytic mechanisms that support the germination and growth of open data champions. Our 'pipeline' strategy uses a modular approach to provide incremental access to resources, skills, support systems, and various acceleration mechanisms.
1 - Partnerships: We're building
a demand-driven eco-system of data creators + curators and data analysts + narrators, partnered with grassroots citizen movements.
Nairobi Data Bootcamp 2012 2
- Data Literacy Skills: We host data literacy bootcamps and masterclasses, develop course materials, and convene strategic policy roundtables + catalytic hackdays across Africa to develop data skills & knowledge. http://DataBootcamp.org
Hacks/Hackers Code4Democracy 3 - Building
Community We're creating a diverse community of civic hackers, data activists and data narrators through a panAfrican network of Hacks/Hackers chapters, citizen tech desks in incubators, and 'kickstarter' Code for Democracy co-creation events.
openAFRICA.net - the continent's largest
volunteer-run open data repository 4 - Building the Backbone: Much like the railways powered industrialisation, Africa needs open data infrastructure, from data and code repositories, to an AfricanCommons resource hub. We've adopted a modular, community-centric approach. http://OpenAfrica.net
OpenDuka + AfricaConnected - turning
parliamentary, newsroom & university archives into machine readable data Liberating Data: By digitizing documents and knowledge within media, academia, and civil society, we're turning 'deadwood' archives into new digital 'structured data' resources, with open APIs to allow for 3rd party reuse. http://OpenDuka.org
Citizen Tools: Data needs to
be action-orientated, to be meaningful. It should help citizens decipher & navigate the complex forces shaping their worlds. It should support evidence-based public discourse & decisionmaking . http://wmmd.codeforafrica.org
Prototypes: Most Africans don’t believe
that granular data exists - and even if it does, they believe it is too complex for ordinary citizens to use meaningfully. Proof-of-Concept prototypes that demonstrate both accessibility and ease of use are therefore crucial for changing mindsets. http://dotmap.adrianfrith.com/
5 - Fellowship Programs: National-level
fellowship programs that embed technologists into 'mass mobilisation' organisations, to catalyze change & build proof-of-concept products or services. http://Code4Kenya.org
GotToVote: A data-driven application that
helped citizens find their election registration centers, and then helped track polling results, plus allowed them to send 'peace messages' to fellow voters. http://GotToVote.co.ke
FindMySchool: A data-driven application that
helps parents track & compare academic performance at schools, as well as identify schools their children will be channelled into, based on performance. http://findmyschool.co.ke/
Star Health: A suite of
data-driven applications that help citizens check if their doctors are in 'good standing', whether their treatment / prescriptions will be covered by health insurance, and where their nearest medical specialists are. http://starhealth.code4kenya.org
6 - Citizen Tech Labs:
Core teams of coders in jAccelerators, with additional mentorships + workspace for data start-ups and citizen-driven projects in tech incubators across Africa.
7 - Funding to Scale:
A venture funding pipeline, offering angel & early-stage impact investment, to initiatives that have achieved meaningful traction, and that offer scalability, sustainability and replicability. http://AfricanNewsChallenge.org
Growing the Circle The focus
now is on diversifying funding sources, to allow for wider support in new thematic focus areas, plus funding to help startups scale beyond prototype.
Kickstarting A Continent: Building on
the success of the Kenyan pilot, we are launching in 3 new countries, to embed data fellows, to build the underlying infrastructure, and produce proof that data tools work through prototypes and qualitative research.
Global Commons: Instead of constantly
reinventing the wheel, we're focusing on pooling resources to build common solutions. OpenAfrica.net has already inspired a clone in Latin America, and we are collaborating with Code for Europe to build OpenCivic as a common resource and toolset.
What Have We Learned? ?
Human Capital Building human capital is as (if not more) important as building technology. Community Base Initiatives are only as good as the community that you nurture. Early Partnerships You need to forge 'real' partnerships with thematic experts & 'end-user' beneficiaries prior to building anything. Grassroots Impact To design for grassroots impact, you need to get out into the field for usercentric needs assessment. Minimum Viable Product Building proof-of-concept prototypes does not need to cost much nor do they need to take much time. Iterative Approach Keeping ideas / solutions simple works best. Iterate, get feedback, reiterate, cull what doesn't work, scale what does. http://CodeForAfrica.org