Help Wanted: World Bank Finances in Kenya

By Jessica Colaço
  Published 15 Jan 2012
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Help Wanted: World Bank Finances in Kenya
This is a Guest Blog Post/Open Invitation bySamuel S. Lee,World Bank FinancesController's Vice Presidency,Knowledge Dissemination Division,World Bank Group.
World Bank Finances/Open Data Event Thursday, January 26th, 2012 @ iHub 6:00 pm (**Tied to the Open Data Journalism Bootcamp, held January 25, 26, 27 at Strathmore University – see below for registration info!) I often lie awake at night thinking about the vast potential open data and mobile technology have in positively impacting global development. Admittedly kind of odd, but it’s just what I do- and it drives me throughout the day while working as a part of the World Bank Finances open financial data team. However, just thinking about potential has very little impact on anyone, aside from the person unable to sleep and an incremental (and insignificant) increase in global coffee sales. Similarly, merely publishing open data is not enough. While it is an important first step that signals transparency (an important message) and serves as a foundation for more meaningful work, the true power of open data lies in its added value to society at large through public empowerment, consumption, and adaptive use. To this point, a recent article highlights that most applications built on a prominent data site were made by government entities as opposed to the public. This dynamic has to change, and arguably the future of open data hinges on reversing this trend. The World Bank Finances’ project tagline is “our data, your world.” However, if “our data” is not connected to “your world,” (worlds meaning various communities of interest- civil society, developers, journalists, etc) the data loses much of its meaning and practical significance. And then, there is Kenya- a positive outlier to the norm if you will. Kenya’s position in the global open data space and as a leader in mobile technology and civic engagement is well documented. The intersection of Kenyan goodwill and mobile technology is also reflected in initiatives like Kenyans4Kenya. There is much to be excited about- plenty of lessons learned and best practices to be shared.

The open data landscape in Kenya continues to be an active, vibrant, and robust space. An Open Data Journalism bootcamp will take place in Nairobi from January 25-27, and is an example of how Kenyans can contextualize and localize open data. This bootcamp is for journalists and developers, and will be a very practical training on how to use spreadsheets, open data platforms, and other tools with a focus on government financial data, as well as how to 'find the story' in this data. This bootcamp is a partnership driven effort by the World Bank Institute, African Media Initiative, the Government of Kenya, Google, Open Knowledge Foundation, the World Bank’s Kenya Country team, and World Bank Finances.

iHub developers are encouraged to sign up for this January 25, 26, 27 Open Data Journalism bootcamp by sending an RSVP to the World Bank Institute ([email protected]) copying Ms. Noreen Wambui ([email protected]). Kindly include your name/title. Details of the agenda will be sent shortly. (If you cannot attend, please do email to connect for future collaborative efforts.)

A few members of the World Bank Finances team (Senior Program Officer & Project Lead: Prasanna Lal Das; Platform Manager: @sandramoscoso; Communications: @samuelslee1) will be heading to Kenya. If you are in Nairobi, please also mark January 26th, 2012 on your calendars. The team will share insights from our participation in the data journalism bootcamp but also wants to directly engage with the iHub community! We want to connect with you, engage with you, learn from you, work with you, and hopefully start an ongoing conversation and collaboration around open financial data in the development space. On the 26th, we hope to center the dialogue around two central themes:

  1. How can the World Bank’s financial data on Kenya be used to positively impact development? How would you mash-up our data, including together with the Government of Kenya’s Open Data? How have you used financial data in the past?
  2. How can our financial data be improved, enhanced, added to in order to be more useful to you?
As a part of the World Bank’s larger Data Initiative, the World Bank Finances open data platform and mobile application (web app for non iPhone users – like me! Native Android version in the works) focuses on sharing financial data on what the World Bank is doing through loans, credit, grant, fund, and budget information. Anyone can sort, filter, and visualize, and share the data, which is also available through an API.Feel free to take a look around before the session on the 26th!
We hope you will be able to join us @iHub on the 26th of January for a night of open conversation and ideation. If you cannot make the session or do not live in Nairobi, please join the conversation through #WBFinances! See you on the 26th!
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