Windhoek Eager to make access to information widely accessible, 23-year-old Amugongo Mbangula Lameck developed the first Namibian open data portal to work as a catalyst to facilitate the publication of more and higher quality data. The portal will serve as one-stop shop for all public data and will enable young people (innovators and entrepreneurs) to use the data by transforming it into applications that enhance service delivery and keep citizens informed, thus increasing accountability, transparency and citizen participation in the civic of affairs of our country. Lameck believes that although government statistics are crucial and important, open data is more than just statistics, as it includes a wide range of different datasets. He said openness has become the enabler for development, innovation and growth today and, therefore, if Namibia seeks efficiency in the delivery of services - both public and private - openness will be very crucial. In 2014 government adopted the e-governance strategic plan of the public service of Namibia 2014-2018, which outlines Namibia’s plan to offer online government services. Furthermore, government has also signed an agreement with Estonian government to construct a secure data layer for governance. In order to compliment the work of government, NSA and other institutions, Lameck and his team - driven by a vision to make access to information a reality - started last year to design how their envisaged open data portal should look. “We faced a major challenge of funding. However, this didn’t derail us from achieving our set objectives. We persevered until we were awarded a grant under the NCRST (National Commission on Research Science and Technology ) youth innovator call late 2015. Today, we’re proud to inform the Namibian nation that the first version of the portal will be online soon, to be launched in the first quarter of 2016,” Lameck said. The open data portal includes two major components: content management system (CMS) and data catalogue. CMS will be mostly used to manage modification and publishing of content. The data catalogue describes the metadata, which makes it easier to understand the data. What’s sets the portal apart from the rest is that citizens would be able to become data collectors. For example, a person in Uis or Oshakati can use their smart citizen kits to collect weather data in their respective area. Through an API they can make this data available on the portal by uploading it. In terms of security, a secure channel is also being developed to ensure secure communication and transfer of data. Once the portal is up and running, it will send a strong message that Namibia has the capacity to develop state-of-the-art technological infrastructure. “We hope to partner with government ministries, agencies and institutions through the Office of the Prime Minister and also private institutions to make their data and services accessible to all Namibians. Moreover, in this digital era where information has become the most valuable asset, it’s important to break down the digital divide and ensure that “No Namibian is left out” and that every citizen from Ehenye to Vaalgras, from Otjimbingwe to Aranos can access crucial services from anywhere in Namibia using their mobile devices,” he said. Once launched, citizens can use the data on the portal to keep themselves and their communities informed, as well as to start businesses. Besides the portal, Lameck is also currently experimenting and researching ways to leverage open and big data to help our cities, towns and villages manage their affairs in an open, efficient and effective way. “This will be our focus for 2016, harvesting the low hanging fruits from open data. “The second open data innovation hackathon we’ll be hosting together with the Namibia Business Innovation Institute in early March aims to co-create together solutions to improve the lives of ordinary Namibians, especially those who are excluded,” said Lameck. Lameck is a computer science student, currently pursuing a Masters degree with a specific research interest in open data, open innovation and emerging technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Information Technology degree, specialising in Software Engineering and an Honours degree in Computer Science: Software development. He represented Namibia at the International Youth Forum in, Russia in 2014. As a young researcher he has published a paper entitled “Increasing Open data awareness and consumption in Namibia: A hackathon approach”, which was published at the 13th Culture and Computer Science Conference in May 2015. Two more of his academic papers are to be published in March, entitled “Leveraging open data to solve city challenges: A case study of Windhoek Municipality” and “Open Data Portal, a Technical Enabler to Drive Innovation in Namibia”.
New Era Reporter
2016-02-24 11:03:52 3 years ago