Free Access to Information still a Challenge in Africa

Prof. Mary Abukutsa opens the workshop on Open Data at JKUAT

Because of its importance in socio-economic and political development, open access to information is now considered a fundamental human right. Availability of data for instance, fosters knowledge-driven decision making, innovation and effective governance. For this reason, agitation and promotion of open data is gaining momentum, particularly in Africa.

Yet there still remains a number of bottlenecks in mainstreaming open access to information or data to deliver development in the continent. Many people within research organizations remain skeptical about opening up their data to the public; instead choose to share their knowledge thorough high impact journals.

It is also common within the academies to see researchers and scholars treat with contempt, data that is freely available through open access sources.

Government agencies across Africa also do not allow data regarding their activities and programmes available to the public.

Then there is the technical challenge of making information available, retrievable and sharable across multiple platforms.

To ventilate on these challenges, scholars converged for a day workshop at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

The Workshop organized under auspices of the Innovative Centre of Open Data and Visualization (iODaV) aimed to explore modalities and tools of enhancing access to scientific data within research organizations and beyond.

Opening the workshop Tuesday September 19, Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa said open research data confers a competitive advantage in an increasingly knowledge oriented world.

A section of participants follow the proceedings during the workshop

Prof. Abukutsa, who is a champion of open data publishing, reminded the participants that uncommunicated science fails to fulfill core objective of fueling innovation and new knowledge through increased access.

She added that JKUAT had put in place a number of initiatives to promote open access including an institutional repository and a policy document on open research.

iODaV Director, Prof. Wafula Muliaro, said the workshop was part of the activities of the Centre to promote innovations based on open data research in Kenya and beyond.

Open data can give rise to new areas of study, strengthen the credibility of scholarly publications as well as stimulate development of new products and services, added Prof. Wafula.

During the workshop, participants were also inducted on scientific writing, data citation, data management, integrity as well as intellectual property.

iODaVis implemented within the AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project, an initiative supported by the Government of Japan, through JICA to strengthen research and innovation capacity of JKUAT and the Pan African University Institute for Basic Science, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI).