Access to open data ‘key to sustainable development’

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  • ICT experts say open data could help policymakers make informed decisions
  • It could help achieve development goals such as food security and free education
  • Policies should be developed to help promote open access to S&T data, experts add

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[NAIROBI] Open access to scientific and technological data could help Africa achieve sustainable development goals, a meeting has heard.
According to information and communication technology (ICT) experts who attended the International Workshop on Open Data for Science and Sustainability in Developing Countries in Nairobi, Kenya, early this month (6-8 August), open access will enable researchers, policymakers, technology developers and the public access information and share knowledge for informed decisions.
The experts called for global information sharing to help reduce the digital divide between the developing and developed nations.

“Common access to information and use of data is key to implementation of sustainable development goals.”

Ke Gong, World Federation of Engineer Organizations

Ke Gong, vice-president of the World Federation of Engineer Organizations, one of the organisers of the workshop which was prepared under the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), says that developing countries need to promote effective and good use of ICT to share available data globally.
“Digital divide is one of the biggest obstacles to sustainable development,” Gong says. “To reduce this, common access to information and use of data is key to implementation of sustainable development goals.”
Gong cites critical development goals such as food security and access to free education, and eradication of poverty, especially in the developing countries. Such goals, he believes, could be achieved if available data are made open and shared locally and across borders.
Fred Matiangi, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for ICT, calls for the development of policies that will promote open access to scientific data, especially legal issues that hinder access to scientific data, citing the need for research funded by governments to be made accessible to the public.
“We have more data than we have the capacity to use,” Matiangi notes. “We must, therefore, invest heavily in developing capacities to facilitate effective use of scientific data and planning for development.”
Matiangi adds that developing nations require more financial investments in infrastructure and capacity building to make good use of ICT.
Joseph Wafula, ICT director of Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), says that access to current and quality data could help students and lecturers aid innovation and enable Africans contribute to developments in various fields globally.
The experts have called for formulation of effective policies and legal frameworks that support open access to scientific data by countries and publication of scientific research work in open access journals, especially in Africa.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.