Last December, Open Knowledge and Code for Africa joined forces to launch a new open government fellowship, a programme that seeks to empower open government pioneers by giving them the opportunity to test their ideas on how to best harness the power of digital technologies to improve the way governments and citizens interact.
Within weeks, we received over 450 applications from 34 countries to fill just four positions and today we are pleased to announce the selected fellows! We were truly amazed by the diversity, quality and creativity of so many of the applicants and are keen to support more fellows in subsequent iterations of the fellowship programme. Please do get in touch if you are interested in learning more about how you can support future fellows.
The fellowship will start in May and run through November, giving the fellows 6 months to develop their ideas into sustainable and impactful solutions to local challenges. Over the course of the fellowship both Code for Africa and Open Knowledge will provide support and mentorship for the fellows as they grapple with the challenges of taking an idea to fruition!
Read on to learn more about the 2015 cohort of Open Government Fellows and discover the exciting projects that they will be working on!
Suhuyini Salim Shani
Suhuyini Salim Shani currently works at VOTO Mobile where he is the lead implementer on a project being rolled out in 4 districts in Ghana called Mobile for Social Inclusive Governance popularly called “All Voices Matter”. The goal of this project is to amplify the voices of marginalised groups and bring them to local government officers for informed decision making. Prior to joining Voto, he was an Assistant Development Planning Officer for one of the District Assemblies in Northern Region of Ghana.
Through the fellowship, Suhuyini will launch a project that is aimed at collecting on-the-ground information from citizens in the worst performing district (Karaga District) according to the Districts League Table (DLT) and engage them in a sustainable dialogue aimed at the development of the district. His work will establish baseline information on residents’ satisfaction with their performance and also figure out how to improve upon the development of the district from the ordinary citizens’ perspective.
Salim also wishes to learn from his co-fellows; “I know my colleagues in this fellowship will also come with brilliant ideas and I hope to learn and exchange ideas from them.”
Irene Ikomu is a Ugandan lawyer who has been running Parliament Watch Uganda for over a year and a half now and has always been keen to find new opportunities to develop her knowledge and network around access to information, transparency and accountability.
While the work Parliament Watch Uganda has done so far has been focused on tracking the institution as a whole, over the course of the fellowship, Irene will conceptualise and develop a model for tracking individual Members of Parliament. At the moment, tracking MP performance using technology is challenging given that key data, such as voting and attendance records, are not made readily available. Irene will therefore be using the opportunity to work with other data and technology experts to make this valuable data on Members of Parliament available to citizens in way that enables them track the performance of their representatives effectively and efficiently.
Irene is looking forward to exploring and experimenting with various ways of improving the dialogue between government and citizens. She is keenly aware that uploading data to a website is not going to transform the relationship between governments and citizens; as such, Irene hopes to learn from the experiences of the other fellows as well as the international open government community to ensure that she continues to focus on the end users and the objectives of Parliament Watch Uganda.
Claude K. Migisha
Claude Migisha K. is a Technologist with over 6 years of experience working at the intersection of Technology and human development. He pioneered the inception of The Rwanda Tech Innovation sphere by founding kLab – a tech innovation hub and implementing THINK – a Millicom owned tech incubator, both based in Kigali, Rwanda. He worked as ICT4D expert in sectors ranging from education, health and youth empowerment with international organisations like; Jhpiego, World Relief, Kepler and GirlHub Rwanda. In 2013, representing tech entrepreneur, he took part in the Open Data Readiness Assessment for Rwanda conducted by the World Bank and the Government of Rwanda, immediately realising the importance of having an open exchange of data between the government and citizens.
As a result, Claude and colleagues launched Sobanukirwa.rw, an access to information/data website in Rwanda, just a few weeks ago that seeks to foster open governance, transparency and accountability. It’s a citizen empowerment tool that lets anyone interact with government and private bodies to request the release of information/data. Claude will be taking advantage of the fellowship to continue to develop the platform, raise awareness for the platform with citizens and strengthen the relationship with the Government in order to ensure that the platform is useful to Rwandan society in general.
Over the course of the fellowship, Claude hopes to acquire new skills and experience on how to best use new technologies to open up government, increase transparency & accountability and most importantly strengthen citizen engagement. He is keen to learn from the experiences of his peers in other countries developing similar platforms. By the end of his fellowship, he would like to see a large number of Rwandan citizens and government officials engaging on Sobanukirwa.
Seember Nyager is currently based in Nigeria and has spent the better part of the last decade promoting increased disclosure of information pertaining to the utilisation of public resources. Her expertise and interest lies in the utilisation of the law, media and technology to promote and push forward inclusive governance in Nigeria. She began her career a decade ago at the African Radio Drama Association where, among other radio programs, they tested the efficacy of the radio as an ICT tool to improve access to information for young rural women farmers.
Currently, she runs Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) where she coordinated the development and deployment of the 1st version of a robust ICT procurement monitoring portal in Nigeria which won the Global Procurement Innovation Challenge in 2012. She was one of 17 other open contracting practitioners convened by the World Bank Institute to author the 1st edition of the Open Contracting Guide. Additionally, as part of her current role at PPDC, she pioneered the ranking of FOI compliance among Nigerian public institutions, pioneered the constituency projects platform ,conducts legal research on FOI, and coordinates FOI litigation.
Her primary objective of the fellowship is to advocate for an increase in proactive disclosure as well as the the development and deployment of data standards, especially the open contracting data standard, across public service. She shall initiate discussions around available platforms through which open contracting data can be customised and used across public services with the goal of linking data on public resources (from budget appropriations to budget releases to individual projects). This would enable every interested party, including community members, track the utilisation of public resources.
By the end of the fellowship, she hopes to acquire new skills in articulating the benefits of open governance in a way that pushes people in public service to partner with civil society as champions the cause.