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Last year, I attended the very successful Africa Open Data Conference and there I said some things that I was later told are unpopular within the Open Data industry – particularly in the civil society. On reflection, I find that I still stand by what I said then. In a nutshell:

  1. Motivations for Open Data matter – why people get into the activities.
  2. The culture of secrecy has been perfected to an art over centuries, and we cannot over turn that culture with short “pilot” projects or an app. It isn’t instantaneous.
  3. Hype is bad. Shiny apps can’t change culture – they back up evolving culture.
  4. Year zero matters – the year that establishes relationships and expectations. We can hardly be successful when we do projects for a year or less.

I recommended that we do two things:

  • Go back to the basics – bring civil servants and others on board and speak less buzz words
  • Slow ourselves down to ensure that our projects drive policy change and therefore culture.

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I am first an foremost a writer who cares deeply about the world. I enjoy stories - especially history for its rich tapestry of stories of people's lives interwoven intricately in failures and victories. I care so deeply about the world that I also spend much of my time and energy trying to make it better in some way.


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