Three media organisations in Kenya are on the frontline of hosting apps created from the open data Initiative, launched by the government in July 2011.
Nation Media Group (NMG) is hosting an application that enables journalists to use open data for articles on health, education and infrastructure ahead of the March 4 elections, while Standard Media Group is hosting a platform for visualising and monitoring crime trends in the country.
Radio Africa Group’s The Star newspaper is focusing on integrating health statistics.
The new apps focus on “a better society” and were created by four fellows from the Code4Kenya initiative and teams of developers selected from 270 applicants in a project supported by the World Bank’s Innovation Fund in partnership with the African Media Initiative and the Open Institute.
Mahtar Ba of the African Media Initiative says the apps demonstrate how technology can be used to solve social problems.
“The Code4Kenya project demonstrates in an apt manner how technology can serve the larger interests of citizens when put in the hands of media professionals. Where technology helps visualize the issues in our societies, it is imperative that media practitioners have the necessary skills to report on them and interpret them for audiences,” he said.
He says that the Africa Media Initiative will be extending a similar project to other countries in Africa as the organisation fights to promote quality journalism “that matters”.
According to the World Bank’s senior social development specialist in Nairobi Christopher Finch, the creation of such apps will help shift the debate from creating policies that are development focused to achieving real results.
“The media is championing an important role in making open data benefit citizens. This is the first sustained attempt in Africa to make open data relevant and usable by citizens, and it can potentially play a role in shifting the development policy debate towards development results,” he said.
Kenya ICT Board’s chief executive Paul Kukubo said the media was an important link between data users and citizens, and challenged Kenyan media houses to shape public opinion by increasing evidence-based reporting.
Apart from the three media houses that are housing the apps, Twaweza, a non-profit, has also developed an application that will enable parents to choose the best schools for their children by comparing schools on various metrics, such as performances in national examinations.