The term “open data” is something new to the Somali people, but it is definitely time to apply such approach in Somalia. Open data is not a new concept, although it only seems to have gained fame recent decades. It is simply defined as data that anyone can access, use and share. Openness of government data to the public has been recognized as a tool that can reinforce anti-corruption efforts by strengthening transparency, increasing trust in government and improving public sector integrity and accountability by reinforcing the rule of law through dynamic citizen participation and engagement.
There has been growing demands for transparent, accessible and credible open data and publication of government data in reusable formats that could be accessed by the general public to be used for safeguarding transparency and accountability of the government to the citizens and empowers civil society, journalists and citizens to hold power-holders accountable and to expose and address corruption.
Bareedo Platform has been leading a campaign aimed to encourage open government in Somalia to promote democracy, accountable government and challenge corruption. In specific, the first campaign was started in Puntland State, a mature state with functional institutions and has been active and functioning even before re-establishment of Somalia’s central government. To set up a baseline, Bareedo Platform conducted the first study on open data in Puntland which its findings has been released and the publication will follow soon. The aim of the study was to know the level of openness and engagement of citizens in public matters.
After continues awareness rising, training and mentoring for civil society, media and government institutions on opening up vital data for the public, the following achievements were made:-
- Puntland Ministry of Finance started publication of state revenue and expenditure to the public and engaged citizens in its budgeting process first time. This is first kind of openness to be shown by a budget holder in Somalia and is a time Puntland citizens are in need of greater transparency and accountability from their government. This initiative shown that government spending reflects the people’s interests and needs and will improve people’s attention to watch the actions of the delegated persons to ensure that they are fulfilling the popular mandate and not pursuing their own interests.
- Puntland Ministry of Information and Telecommunication committed establishment of e-government system very soon to accommodate all public data and information which will allow the citizens to watch what their government is doing. The process has been started and the establishment of individual information website for government institutions has been finalized so far.
- The mayor of Garowe city started to openly present the monthly district revenue and expenditure which is a sense of openness and first ever openness amongst the district authorities across Puntland. Although, the budget is presented in numbers which is hard to the public to understand easily, but it is the beginning of open government and will influence other districts to do so. The openness shown by the mayor already established good reputation and public trust which in turn is expected to increase tax collection.
- Puntland Statistics Act was endorsed by the Parliament to provide for collection, compilation, extraction and dissemination of official statistics in Puntland.
- Bareedo Platform advocated legislative openness and engagement of citizens to the parliamentary work to increase accountability, transparency and access to public information. There has been commitment that made by the Parliament of which we agreed to come into action in 2020 and that Bareedo Platform supports the process.
Bareedo Platform, which one of its core mandates is “promotion of open government” is committed to continue promotion of open data in Puntland and generally Somalia to improve the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation in support of democracy and inclusive growth.