In medieval times, the strongest and fastest man had all he wanted for making his ends meet. Later, those who were associated with the King and royalty had all they’d ask for; all you needed was to be linked with the King either by blood or association. As times changed and the agrarian revolution dawned on men, the king substance became land. Whoever had and could cultivate land had all, was all and above all. Shortly afterwards; the concept of value addition became a necessity and that birthed the industrial revolution. In the advent of industrial revolution; capital became lord and master over the needs and affairs of men. Today information is the substance of; we live in the information age, the man with information, or can access information gets to take the bacon home.
It’s against this backdrop that “A better Kenya in our hands project” is rooted. Information with the magic it can do goes supernova when married to its able and interesting partner called technology. The two present a united front normally referred to as ICTS; a very integral component in commerce, governance, relations and development. Primarily “A better Kenya in our Hands” is a demonstration of how proper use of government information through ICT platforms and strategies can transform society by influencing how people of this generation and especially youth engage their government, other public service providers and use the available information for socio-economic empowerment and development.
The goal of opendata.go.ke is to make core government development, demographic, statistical and expenditure data available in a useful digital format for researchers, policymakers, ICT developers, THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY and the general public. Kenya is the first developing country to have an open government data portal, the first in sub-Saharan Africa and second on the continent after Morocco. The initiative has been widely acclaimed globally as one of the most significant steps Kenya has made to improve governance and implement the new Constitution’s provisions on access to information (Article 35). As of November 2011, there are close to 390 datasets that have been uploaded to the site, with a plan currently in place to upload more data over the next year. There have been over 17,000 page views and over 2,500 dataset downloaded and embedded to various websites and portals. There are now over a hundred requests from the public for new datasets, and there is a clear demand for more data to be made available.
Huduma on the other hand is a citizen initiative of SODNET in partnership with USHAHIDI. It is a platform that enables citizens to amplify their voices in the demand for services directly to authorities and service providers. Huduma is both a strategy and a technology tool. The technology component entails the deployment of a web and mobile-based platform that aggregates and channels concerns and observations of citizens (SMS, voice, video) directly to authorities for redress. The strategy involves building multiple partnerships with civil society groups, governments and other service providers to promote civic engagement facilitate public and media utilization of Huduma as a problem-solving tool and to engender government buy-in at the local and national levels.
With the above understanding; the importance of the two portal if put in proper use cannot gainsaid. The two, not only give the youth a chance to engage the government, they provide platform to demand better services, gives direct interaction between the people and the authorities, immediate or timely feedback, creates the much needed camaraderie between governments and the people for development, harnesses ideas that are relevant and timely for policy making and if also well it could serve as a mirror not only for the government but the entire nation - where a nation looks at how she utilizes her resources and see if that’s the way she really want it, with the benefit of hindsight. Open Data can be an eye opener for business-savvy youth, by analyzing the availed data; one is able to spot business opportunities for instance by seeing how the government spends the money, on whom and where. This could initiate cheaper and relevant , new solutions and related options that will not only create employment but as well better services as provided and raise standards of living.
The role of young people in governance and development is paramount and mandatory. But this role can never be realized if the youth are not mainstreamed into the affairs of the community or country. Kenya; a country that has its origins of statehood way back in 1912, when the crown pronounced it as a British colony and only realized its birth as an independent state in 1963. It’s a fact undisputed that despite Kenya being one of the African luminaries and at some stage referred to as Africa’s blue-eyed boy, it’s still characterized by mass unemployment, unprincipled leadership, tribal animosity, nepotism, corruption, embezzlement, cronyism, evil and crimes untold – in a simple phrase, poor governance.
There is need to spearhead general empowerment of young people so as to reduce risk factors and promote positive factors. Coordination and mainstreaming youth issues in all aspects of national development as stipulated in the National Youth Policy, its current state and the anticipated review. Need by policy makers to visualize an innovative, creative and vibrant youth working for a better Kenya. Policies that are pro youth, and mostly importantly engage with young not as a problem to be addressed but as actively participants in the decision making and political processes that affect their lives and the move toward building a better Kenya.