Lameck Amugongo: Data Revolution Catalyst

Fri Apr 29 16:03:47 2016

Disclaimer

The following is a review of a presentation given at FLOSSUK Spring DevOps Conference. The event was held at Mary Ward House in London between 15th-17th March 2016. Although this is a description of a presentation with some dissection of what was discussed it is not a verbatim account and will contain personal impressions and interpretation. The content therefore does not reflect the quality of the original presentation and should be considered a review and personal opinion.

This is one of a series of reviews of the talks I saw at the event.

Introduction

Lameck, who currently works in Germany, is originally from Namibia and still participates heavily in the open source and open data movements in his home country. Namibia is on the cusp of a new era in how it deals with open access with strong movements from their government towards empowering people using open standards.

We need data for everything

Lameck during his presentation Lameck during his presentation

Open Data :: Big Data

The idea of using open data, big data (government and large organisation records and readings) has been enshrined as a right by the United Nations who have called for 17 data codes to protect and distribute data to people.

Open data will help us to build sustainable tools and a sustainable future

Data should be:

  • Freely available
  • Freely shared
  • Multiple forms:
    • Scientific data
    • Government data
    • Environmental data
    • etc.

In 2013 McKinsey and Company estimated the value of big data to be in excess of three trillion dollars, in 2015 that had raised to five trillion. This estimate is considered to be a conservative rationale.

We are still in a fledgling stage with the use of big/open data, there are a number of needs that must be addressed as we move towards a more accessible future:

  • Research into the current levels of availability and usage
  • Measuring via access, applications or solutions that use the data
  • raw data available to all via on- and off-, line access
Quote from the UN Quote from the UN

Open Data in an Emerging Economy

In emerging economies the best usage of this data is via the mobile networks. New dominant countries have stronger telecommunications infrastructure via mobile and satellite than traditional wire or fibre networks.

Why Open Data?

  • Social functions
  • Economic freedom
  • Cultural need and change
  • Civic engagement
  • Decision making, and electoral services
  • Transparency of activity and accountability of usage

This data revolution is not free but the people have already been paying their governments and organisations to collect it for decades via the existing mechanisms of taxation and civil records. There has also been massive government investment into environmental monitoring and scientific research producing petabytes of data for analysis and statistical modelling.

This data is closely tied to the phenomena often described as ‘the internet of things’ (IoT) - certainly the availability of cheap hardware and sensors, coupled with connected systems will drive a large wave of data collection. This could be a way of resolving the major challenges the world is facing, if it is available and understandable.

The Issues

There are some major problems in this data-driven world. There is a huge discrepancy caused by digital divides, this isn’t just the access to digital material but the competence in using or understanding it. Open data can give us a greater wealth of understanding and it can enrich the lives of everyone who has access to it.

As long as they have access and can use it.

Open Data Innovation Hackathon

The Open Data Innovation Hackathon (ODIH) is an initiative created in namibia and backed by the government to create applications that make use of the ideas behind Open Data. It has been held for the last 2 years and has created a number of innovative applications that are being developed for free distribution.

  • GoToVote - Kenya - Helping people to register and to vote in elections
  • High Fives - Tracking the development of the African Continent
  • Fix My City - Reporting on local infrastructure issues - allows citizens to report directly to local authorities
  • Smart Meters - allows you to monitor and preserve water usage
  • eMERGE - help with emergency services notifications, report an issue and a location
  • Food Bank - trying to eradicate poverty by reporting food levels, access and need
  • eHealth - Pay for health services
  • CoW Bus Service - increase the mobility of citizens and access to transport

Lameck proposes that the way forwards is the creation of more APIs to access and share the data.

Big data is velocity, volume and variety, it is about dynamic scaling and performance. To use it we need flexible schemas, semi-structured data sources and personalisation of data to make it relevant to each individual so that they are engaged. It should enable us to process, understand, help and serve us in our environment. We need real time data and that includes operational data for access and consumption in real time.

The conclusion is that data has become an essential component of a modern writable society. To support this we need to create flexible bureaucracy that better suits the pace of technological change and digital freedoms.

It is our data, let’s liberate it.

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