The Ghana Open Data Initiative was started by the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) to ensure public access to government data. It was started in 2012 to ensure accountability, efficiency, and transparency in governance by empowering citizens with data on the country and government’s activities. The main goal of this initiative is the development of the Ghana Open Data Portal where government data can be accessed under an open license (Creative Commons Attribution) that allows the public to download the data for free, reuse it for whatever purpose and even redistribute. The only caveat here is that reference should be made to the data source whenever it is being used.
Since 2018, the Ghana Open Data Portal has been undergoing some revamping activities to make the portal more useful and helpful to users. Some of the activities that have taken place include the training of representatives of 20 government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to prepare data in a specific format before uploading it onto the portal. This aspect of the training was crowned last year with a Data Upload Challenge and Data Hackathon event. This event attracted 100s of people from different backgrounds. Some of them were data scientists, software developers, students, etc. They had the opportunity to interact with the representatives of the MDAs, ask questions about the data they have available, use cases, etc. At the end of the day, innovative products were developed form the data the government institutions provided.
One aspect of the entire initiative is the building of communities of open data enthusiasts. These open data communities will serve as a place for people to meet and learn from each other and explore opportunities that open data affords. The project team is currently reaching out to students and lecturers in tertiary institutions to tell them about the project, the portal and how they too can take advantage of it. Secondly, the goal is to establish Open Data clubs in the tertiary institutions the team visits. The first of these outreach programs was held at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) on 11th March, 2020. The presentations were on the changes the portal has undergone over the years and where we are at right now. There was also a presentation on the Ghana Open Data Alliance, a platform that serves as a marketplace for data suppliers and demanders to interact, network with experts, gain access to data, etc. Afterward, the students and teachers were given the opportunity to ask questions and the various speakers from GODI took turns answering them. There were 2 panel discussions one on ‘Open data and development – which way for Ghana?’ and the second was concerning the expectations that those in academia have for the open data portal.
The GODI team was very pleased to answer questions and also receive some feedback and relevant contributions from both lecturers and students as to how the portal would be beneficial to them. A number of students also wrote their names down to join the newly-established Open Data Club at UPSA.