Sunday, May 29, 2022

BIH shows interest in open data for economic stimulation

Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH), in conjunction with the e-Government Unit in the Office of the President, has expressed interest to conduct a diagnostic study to assess the capability of Botswana, inside and outside the government, to implement an Open Data program.

BIH said the assessment will include an action plan, which will provide recommendations on utilizing Open Data to stimulate business innovation and new business creation, especially in the ICT and small business sectors.

BIH Director Marketing, Registration and ICT, Dr Geoffrey Seleka, said the study is to be conducted in partnership with the World Bank and the Partnership for Open Data. He pointed out that BIH’s interest in Open Data is for economic stimulation which must result in emergence of new innovative businesses hence job creation and economic diversification.

“The innovators have informed us that they can use survey mapping data to create geospatial solutions and automated physical address systems,” said Dr Seleka.

He also pointed out that the survey can be used on lost cattle data to create cattle tracking systems and so forth; transport data to create transport management systems. He is of the view that BIH saw Open Data as one of the tools or opportunity which they can use to accelerate the Botswana Innovation Hub mandate.

“One of BIH’s focus sectors is Information Communication Technologies (ICT) which we must facilitate its growth to get to a level whereby it must contribute to economic diversification and job creation,” he stated.

Dr Seleka spoke of following the completion of the technical assistance it emerged that electronic Open Data was very crucial to community of developers in order for them to develop innovative solutions of local relevance and businesses and added that hence BIH further engaged the World Bank to work.

Leading the study author Andrew Stott, Senior Open Data Consultant, World Bank said that Open Data initiatives release data that is useful to others and so is rapidly reused. Stott pointed out that the study of other initiatives has identified certain key datasets which are particularly suitable and valuable for reuse.

“Open Data requires government to make the non-sensitive data which it collects in the course of its operations available to others as much as possible,” said Stott.

He is of the view that the data should be available in “raw”, machine-readable form for reuse for commercial or non-commercial purposes. He added that Open Data is relatively new, but where other governments have already started to use it with benefits in terms of economic growth, innovation and job creation.

World Bank ICT Policy Specialist, Anat Lewin pointed out that Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA) consists of a series of interviews with key stakeholders, including government officials and people outside government. She said it covers eight main pillars of leadership, law, government institutions, management of data, demand for data, capabilities of business and civil society, finance and national IT infrastructure.

“It follows a standard methodology developed by the World Bank, adapted as necessary for the needs of Botswana,” said Lewin.

She also stated that based on these interviews and desk review of laws and other documents, the team will deliver an action plan with recommendations for consideration by BIH and the e-Government Unit.

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