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News — 26 September, 2023

Unlocking Knowledge and Collaboration: The Open Data Talks Initiative

In the second quarter of 2023, HOT’s Open Mapping Hub - Eastern & Southern Africa (OMH-ESA), in collaboration with open data champions and organizations in Kenya, held a series of talks under the Open Data Talks (ODT) program. This blog post delves into the key findings, challenges, outcomes, successes, and recommendations stemming from the ODT events.

Cover photo: Participants networking at the ODT 2. Source: OMH-ESA.

Why ODT?

The Open Data Talks initiative aims to establish a knowledge-sharing platform for open data enthusiasts in Kenya through a series of lightning talks, Open Mic Show-and-Tell Sessions, and engaging discussions.


ODT rationale infographic. Source: OMH-ESA.

The primary goals are:

  • Foster Collaboration: Facilitate collaboration opportunities among participants.
  • Showcase Ideas: Provide a platform for individuals and organizations to present new and untested open data concepts.
  • Drive Adoption: Influence the wider adoption of open data and tools across institutions.
  • Introduce OMH-ESA: Create an opportunity to introduce OMH-ESA to individuals and organizations in the open data community.

Approach: Setting the Stage for Success

The success of ODT events hinges on their unique approach:

  • After-Office-Hours: By scheduling events after regular working hours, ODT ensures higher attendance, greater flexibility for participants, exposure to a diverse audience, enhanced productivity, extended access to facilities, and promoting work diversity.
  • Unique Venue Locations: Selecting distinctive venues adds an element of excitement, leaving attendees eager to participate and creating a memorable networking experience.
  • Fun-Filled and Engaging Programs: By incorporating fun and engaging activities like board games (e.g., Jenga), ODT events ensure active participation, attendee satisfaction, improved team dynamics, and interactive networking sessions.

ODTJenga.png ODT participants play Jenga as part of fun-filled activities. Source: OMH-ESA.

Inauguration: ODT 1.0

The inaugural ODT event was held on April 19, 2023, from 5.30 p.m. to 8.00 p.m. at the coworking office space “Ikigai Nairobi”, Riverside. The event sought to build a knowledge-sharing platform among open data enthusiasts in Kenya. The primary goal of the inaugural event was to accelerate conversations that would potentially influence the adoption of open data across institutions.

Seventeen individuals from various organizations were invited to speak and attend the inaugural event. These organizations included: Ushahidi, Open Institute, Map Kibera, Kenya Red Cross Society, GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation), Kenya Space Agency, USIU (United States International University Africa), AMWIK (Association of Media Women in Kenya), Digital Earth Africa (DEA), Nature Kenya, OSM (OpenStreetMap) Kenya, Geopsy Research, ESRI Eastern Africa (EA), Metameta, Association of Freelance Journalists, Data Integrated and UN-Habitat Kenya.

ODTCover.png ODT 1 Group Photo. Source: OMH-ESA.

Four of the seventeen individuals who attended the inaugural event were invited to speak and provide an overview of how they use open data in advancing their organizational mandates. These organizations included:

  1. The Kenya Space Agency (KSA): KSA was invited to speak on how they use open data to enhance social and economic development through space technology in Kenya.
  2. Digital Earth Africa (DEA): DEA focused on how they use open data to improve the lives of people across the African continent through the utilization of Earth observation.
  3. Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS): KRCS spoke on using open data to strengthen disaster risk management in Kenya.
  4. Association of Freelance Journalists - Kenya (AFJ): AFJ spoke about how they use open data to advance and promote an informed and gender-responsive society in Kenya and Africa.

ODT 2.0

A total of twenty-six individuals drawn from various organizations were invited to attend the event - as either attendees/ participants, moderators, or panelists. These organizations included Ushahidi, Open Institute, Map Kibera, Kenya Red Cross Society, USIU-Kenya, AMWIK, Nature Kenya, OSM Kenya, ESRI EA, Metameta, Upande, World Bank Group, UN-Habitat Kenya.

ODTAtendees.png Participants at the ODT 2. Source: OMH-ESA.

The event agenda included engaging moderator-panel discussions and interactive sessions. Among the individuals invited for the second ODT event, four were invited as panelists to share their insights, experiences, and perspectives on the role that communities play in open data at their organizations. These organizations included Map Kibera, Open Institute, ESRI Eastern and Southern Africa, and OSM Kenya.

Panel moderators from the United States International University Africa (USIU - Kenya) and Ushahidi ensured engaging conversations among the panelists and participants. The moderators steered discussions and facilitated a productive dialogue during the event. Additionally, attendees from various institutions shared their insights and experiences on the roles communities play in open data, thus fostering an environment of knowledge exchange and collaboration.

ODTPanelists.png Panelist and moderator session at the ODT 2. Source: OMH-ESA.

Next Steps and ODT 3.0 Evolution

Looking ahead, the ODT program plans to evolve further by aligning with the new OMH-ESA strategy and with this year’s programs. The ODT program vision encompasses quarterly versions of events that will focus on visibility, advocacy, and showcasing work on open data. Additionally, plans for podcasts, interviews, breakfast roundtables, and open data talks on the move are in the pipeline, promising even more knowledge-sharing and collaboration opportunities.

In summary, the Open Data Talks initiative has emerged as a powerful catalyst for knowledge sharing and collaboration in Kenya’s open data ecosystem. By embracing innovation, unique approaches, and a commitment to driving change, ODT events are poised to shape the future of open data in the region, one engaging conversation at a time.

ODTAtendees1.png Attendees at the First Open Data Talk. Source: OMH-ESA.