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Do the numbers add up? Use of the open data portal in Tanzania

As part of Tanzania’s open government efforts, the government’s open data portal (opendata.go.tz) was launched in 2014. The site hosts an ever-growing collection of data, available “to be used and re-used by anybody,” including extensive data on health, education and water services.

This brief presents the findings of a study looking at potential and actual users of data in Tanzania, covering civil society and local government. It asks what data they are currently accessing, where they are accessing it from, and what they are using it for. And it explores the challenges and opportunities they have found in using data, including data from the open data portal.

The Tanzanian open data portal describes its purpose as follows:

“By making this data publicly available, a wide range of actors can be brought into the policy process and debate, bringing valuable new ideas and new thinking to policy making, and stronger public participation in monitoring and citizen feedback.”

The data published on the site meets the definition of open data, which includes the following two elements:

  • The data is legally open – published in the public domain with no (or very minimal) restrictions on how it may be used
  • The data is technically open – published in electronic formats that are readable by a machine, i.e. a spreadsheet or similar file, not in pdf format

A core element of the open data philosophy is that the data is available to anybody. In practice, in addition to the obvious categories of users such as academics, the technology community, the media and civil society, the data can also be very useful to others within government. It is often simpler for a civil servant to access data from an online source, for example, rather than requesting it from a different department through formal procedures. 

Methodology and sampling

The survey was designed as a quantitative assessment, administered through CATI (Computer Aided Telephonic Interview). Data collection took place from February 2 to 24, 2017, achieving a sample size of 170 respondents across three categories of data users.

Key findings: 

The vast majority of respondents (94%) report using data collected by government in their regular work. This includes all respondents from LGAs and national civil society. 

Among all respondents who report using government data in their work, the most common uses of the data were to advocate for improvements in public services (41%), mobilising the community to take action (34%) and ensuring their own work meets community needs (33%).

Four in ten respondents (40%) said they were aware of the open data portal, though some (2%) only recognised it after a short explanation had been given to them.

Among the 67 respondents who were aware of the portal, just under half (45%) said they had ever visited it. As such, out of all 170 respondents, just 30 (18%) said they had ever visited the site. 

The majority (73%) of the portal’s visitors reported using a personal laptop. The remainder all reported using a work computer. 

You can read the full brief here. 

Read more: data learning Twaweza

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Organizations: Twaweza East Africa

Pages: 13

Type: Policy brief

Year: 2017

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