Open Data For Women and Persons with Disabilities

Joan K Hope Dec. 17, 2020

Open data has led to many initiatives and platforms to publish open datasets. The open data movement in the area of access and usage to the public is very important in the East African Region States.


Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), a member of the Digital Human Rights Lab organized a strategy session on November 9th 2020 during the global Internet Governance Forum 2020. This session was facilitated by Peace Oliver Amuge the Executive Director, WOUGNET and Rebecca Ryakitimbo a co-convener of KsGEN, an African School of Internet Governance Fellow, an Internet Society fellow and Google Policy fellow.

Overview of open data and examples of open data initiatives in East Africa

The session was started by Joan Katambi, Assistant Lecturer of Uganda Institute of ICT and Founder of DLI .

Open data has led to many initiatives and platforms to publish open datasets. The open data movement in the area of access and usage to the public is very important in the East African Region States.

Uganda has made government datasets available to the public through the Uganda data portal e.g the online publication of the national budget allocations and other statistical bulletins by the ministry of finance, planning and economic development among others.

The Kenya open data Initiative has made government datasets available to the public. For instance, open data in Kenya has helped citizens and data journalists to acquire information about government job vacancies and tenders among others.

In Tanzania, an open data movement was initiated through the dLab project so Tanzania has got a basic statistics portal that provides open data however the data made is prioritized for education, water and health sectors only.

The government of Rwanda recognizes the value of open data and issued an order to all its departments to publicly avail all data for public consumption online without charge.

In Burundi, an IWACU open data was initiated and built by IWACU press, with its major goal to provide an open and utilizable database about Burundi.

Government initiatives to ensure women and other citizens access open data

Innocent is a final year student at the Uganda Institute of ICT, he was an Internet Society fellow Youth Ambassador at the IGF in Berlin 2019 and was a NextGen fellow at ICANN 65.

Innocent noted that government data must be accessible to everyone including women and Persons with disabilities. It is evident that most women in East Africa live in rural areas where digital inclusion has remained a challenge. A large percentage of women lack even the basic smartphones to access the Internet therefore it makes it impossible for them to access open government data. We do realize that many women are illiterate therefore you can’t talk of open data before talking of literacy. This implies that government data needs to be localized from English to their local languages if they are to access and understand it.

How are the persons with disabilities accessing open data and challenges being faced?

Shamim Nampijja is an ICT professional with experience in social communication. She currently works at Nuwodu Uganda. A women led organization of persons with disabilities advocating for the rights of women and girls with disabilities in Uganda. 

Shamim noted that persons with disabilities face social exclusion due to digital division on account of their disability, gender, class and privilege. Several international human rights conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Persons with Disabilities Act 2019 of Uganda all recognize that access to communication technologies are not only human rights but sources of empowerment and social integration. Despite the efforts that the government of Uganda has put in place to provide its citizens with open data, a lot needs to be done to encourage persons with disabilities access open data and social inclusion.

Access to open data for persons with disabilities in Uganda is faced by a number of challenges including, access and affordability to ICT tools among others.”

Legal frameworks about open data

Elieen Nay Kwiponya is a Civil and Construction Engineering student at The Technical University of Kenya, a member of Internet Society Kenya Chapter and was a NextGen fellow at ICANN65.

Elieen mentioned the legal background that gives access to open data to all citizens and emphasized that the policies provided by the government should always provide the requirement for successful implementation of for all people.

In Kenya, every citizen has the right to access information and the country has an open data portal which was launched in July 2011.

Uganda has the Access to Information Act 2005 that manifests a step forward for government willingness to provide public information.

The Tanzanian government has got an open data portal but no law guarantees this information to the public.

Burundi has a privacy policy known as Knoema which is a cloud based data technology platform that makes data accessible and delivers intelligent data tools.

Rwanda has the Access to Information law that allows every citizen to access information held by the government bodies and certain private bodies.

What is the role of CSOs and governments in ensuring women and PWDs access open data? 

Joan noted that civil society organizations should run campaigns to ensure that people are aware of their needs related to open data access and they should form collaborations and movements to work together with other actors and advocate for policies that are inclusive.

Governments need to develop strategies, action plans and working groups in support of their commitments towards Open data. Governments should add metadata to ensure that data can be understood by citizens especially women and persons with disabilities. Governments should also clearly communicate the data they hold, make data permanently accessible and findable.

Ms Kwiponya concluded by saying that even though governments in the region have advanced open data policies, women and persons with disabilities are still underrepresented.