The first-ever high-level conference on Open Data in Togo took place Nov. 30 in Lomé. It was organized by the US Embassy, the United Nations Development Program, the European Union and the Minodoo technology collective, in collaboration with the Ministry of Digital Economy. The aim was to promote greater awareness of the potential of Open Data to accelerate development, boost economic growth, and improve transparency and good governance. Approximately 250 guests attended the conference, which featured speakers from 5 countries, including Cori Zarek, the former Deputy Chief Technology Policy Officer at the White House.
Since 2016, Togo has a law granting freedom of access to information and public documentation. The text allows access to information and public documents through online consultation. It defines the conditions for reuse of information and public documentation. Despite the law, however, open public data are still underutilized resources. Open Data refers to data – usually collected by the government – that everyone can access and that everyone can use and share. Governments, businesses and individuals can use open data to create social, economic and environmental benefits.
For David Gilmour, the US ambassador in Lome, open data represents great potential to drive growth. Open Data is certainly a new vector of wealth creation, but how can Togo benefit from it? David Gilmour cited a report published in 2014 by McKinsey Consultants that urges governments to play the role of supplier and catalyst. As a supplier, the government must regularly publish the data and constantly improve its quality and access. As a catalyst, the government must strive to create an ecosystem of data users, coders and application developers and to create new data-driven businesses.
Gilmour congratulated the government of Togo for the progress it has made, such as creating the national open data portal. But for the diplomat, Togo must go further. He offered several recommendations such as:
- Authorities need to invest in open data skills across government, including at the regional and municipal levels. This involves investing in training and resources for government focal points responsible for data collection, as well as in ongoing collaboration among ministries to ensure data updating and sharing.
- There is also a need to actively support and incubate innovation using open data. It is possible to introduce incentives for innovators and entrepreneurs in specific sectors
- It is also important for governments to prioritize the publication of essential baseline data (maps, address databases, census demographic data, road and other transport data, etc.).
- Finally, David Gilmour invited Togo to join the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a multilateral network created in 2011 and comprising 70 countries.