In commemoration of the 2020 Open Data Day, the Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) hosted a virtual meeting on the 15th of May, 2020. The virtual meeting which was convened by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter of the alliance drew thirty-five participants (35) from CS-SUNN Steering Committee, National Secretariat, FCT, Kaduna, Lagos, Nasarawa and Rivers State Chapters. Other participants were from the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the National Bureau of Statistics. The day was also marked with a live tweet chat on twitter which showcased updates from the meeting and provided answers to questions on open data from CS-SUNN twitter followers.
More than just presentations, the meeting provided a collaborative ground to explore open data and amplify Civil Society voice for data to be more open and accessible in Nigeria. Participants considered if Nigeria was practicing an open data system, the flexibility of approved bodies (custodians of data) in releasing data, challenges of open data and recommended strategies to improve open data in Nigeria.
Key presentations during the meeting included “Overview of data and challenges in Data Access” by Glory Uzoaga, a statistician with the National Bureau of Statistics as well as “Data Management, Open storage, prerequisites for open data, ethics in data usage and importance in development work” by Airaoje Karl. In his presentation, Karl identified factors which inhibit open data system to include copyright laws, policies and also the sensitivity of the data generated. He stated that open data remains key for programming, decision making and accountability in Nigeria. He emphasized the need for Open Data as this will ensure all agencies, bodies and organizations that generate data, make such data (both in its raw and processed state) available to the public in reusable formats.
In her contribution, CS-SUNN Executive Secretary, Beatrice Eluaka explained that in working with government stakeholders, building trust is a key to accessing data. She explained the importance of developing briefs, informational materials, score cards and data analysis to provide stakeholders with an appraisal of where they have been doing well in terms of policy formulation and implementation, funding and budgeting. This, she said, gives room for further improvement. She cited CS-SUNN engagements in some states in Nigeria which has gradually led to improved budgetary allocations for nutrition.
The Convener, FCT Coordinator, CS-SUNN, Ngozika Ogbonna, urged participants to familiarize themselves with Nigeria’s Freedom of Information Bill (FoI) to be empowered to access public information as a right. She identified some sources of data in Nigeria to include, National Bureau of Statistics and the Data Release Calendar.
Figure 1: Virtual Group Photograph of participants during CS-SUNN 2020 Open Data Day Meeting
Key recommendations from the meeting include:
1. The need for all stakeholders and data/information users to study Nigeria’s FoI Act 2011 and understand what the position of the document on open data/data access is. This will simplify its use as a standpoint for advocacy on open data at all levels.
2. Advocacy for a unified database where all research data (raw and processed) generated within Nigeria (by parastatals, research bodies, universities, professional bodies and others) can be posted for free access and used by any interested party. The unified platform should be such that, all ethical review boards can share research works submitted to them. Also, Journals originating from Nigeria are to be made accessible on the platform for free.
3. Improved advocacy, sensitization and citizens engagement to make data more open and accessible in Nigeria.
4. The need for Open data to begin with CSOs in Nigeria. All organizations that have generated any form of data that may be useful to other Organizations, the government and other bodies should share such data in reusable formats and on accessible platforms.
The FCT chapter of CS-SUNN appreciates the Open Knowledge Foundation for sponsoring the event and the CS-SUNN National Secretariat for grant