MACRO: What laws and economic drivers produce (or undercut) qualitative data infrastructure, access, work and capacity in this setting?

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Angela Okune's picture
September 22, 2020

AO: This excerpt from the article (below) highlights the key role that liberalizing telecom and fiber networks in Kenya had for attracting American multinational tech companies like Google to set up their regional hub in Nairobi.

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"As the most developed country on the continent, South Africa is the obvious hub for online Africa. And yet when Google was looking for a regional base, it went first to Nairobi. Why? Because Kenya — notably its government and specifically Ndemo — embraced the Internet as few other nations have. Unlike other African regulators, who often see protecting state telecom monopolies as their duty, Ndemo was an early and enthusiastic liberalizer of telecoms and fiber networks and was instrumental in Kenya's decision to lay its own national undersea fiber cable when talks on a regional link failed. Ndemo says the state's ultimate aim is free mobile calls and e mail for every Kenyan who wants them, which he estimates at 60% to 80% of a population of 40 million. The driving principle behind his digital zeal, says Ndemo, is that "the Internet is a basic human right" and a necessity for economic growth."

Angela Okune's picture
September 22, 2020

AO: The excerpt from the article below highlights Bitange's announcement about the Kenya Open Data initiative at Pivot 25 which took place in 2011. The article quotes him as saying: "All the data you want, you'll find it there." Fast-forward almost 10 years ahead, we know that while the Kenya Open Data Portal was indeed launched in 2011, data on the platform was inadequate and quickly stagnated. Today, the Kenya Ministry of ICT is looking to review and revise its Open Data policy.

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"In the first week of July, Kenya's government will become the first in Africa — and one of the first in the world — to be completely data open. It will release online millions of pages of previously internal, often secret government documents. "All the data you want, you'll find it there," said Ndemo. He described the initiative in terms of allowing a government that faces a general election next year to demonstrate service delivery as well as to have a legacy project for President Mwai Kibaki, who is not expected to seek re-election. But the implications of such radical transparency for a government frequently ranked among the most corrupt in the world are immense. In an interview, Ndemo agreed that open government will "completely change the way the government deals with the public and will strike a huge blow against corruption. There has been some resistance — the Planning Ministry refused for a whole year to give us their data — but we have convinced them.'"

Angela Okune's picture
March 13, 2020

AO: The interview excerpts below demonstrate the need to carve out and establish a research company's unique value proposition in Nairobi's research market. It is important to also develop clear brand recognition for that value in order to develop collaborations across different groups. If you are going to be a good collaborator within the Nairobi research market, you don't want to be seen as stepping on someone else's established turf.

BC-MW-F-S-02  39:44

“…the second element, I guess is you don't necessarily want a client to think that you're incapable of doing this yourself. So by citing another person, it raises the question of "why are we hiring you? Are you able to carry out this work to completion? Or do you need to revive another organization's knowledge in order to get to this stage?" And so I think when you have those two things together, it prevents you from from really acknowledging things. But it just depends on how established the company is as well. So if you're a very established company, and everyone trusts you to be the expert, then you're probably going to be more comfortable with acknowledging people because it's fine, everyone knows you're great. Whereas if you're starting off, and you have more of that insecurity, of "I'm in competition with these different people, we haven't yet found our niche. People don't necessarily know that we're the experts in this area," then you don't want to flag up other companies that could in theory be contracted instead of you. So I guess it depends on the company as well.”

BC-MW-F-S-02  41:14

“...the new technical division around qualitative research and design...the reason why it doesn't have a name yet is because you don't want to call it a certain thing so that other people think you're now stepping in their territory. So it's meant to be an internal resource. But if people then see [REDACTED ORG NAME] is opening up a design department, then all the design or HCD firms will start thinking, are we going to be slowly creeping into their market and that's not the intention, but we're not going to have those conversations with them beforehand...”

November 27, 2019

TM: Two things come to mind based on this from the discussion: 1. The various laws Phares mentioned that directly affect the way data is handled in this country; the Data Protection Act was heavily mentioned in Panel 3 and how in large part made me think about how data is handled in this country. So are the laws addressing what actually matters to the researchers at hand or are they there to fit in with the rest of the world? KEBS representative mentioned that legislation on matters qualitative data and its infrastructure is being initiated at a step by step basis. Who decides the frequency or amount of steps or what the actual steps are is what remained unanswered. 2. Institutional laws and economics on the manner by which qualitative data is handled, the sieving effect of institutions like University libraries that limit access to a select bunch yet living under a cover of a public institution benefiting from public funds is a fallacy.

November 27, 2019

PC: Copyright as an issue came up. One major tension was around data ownership-- data localization was a key point that I picked up on. For example, if sensitive Kenyan data is stored on Amazon or Microsoft cloud services, then if the US decides to subpeona it, there’s nothing Kenya can do about it. (Probably a similar or even graver concern with Huawei and China.) At the same time, people mentioned that there are clear advantages to scale. “There’s a reason no one uses their company emails here… everyone will have a gmail or yahoo account.” Also, strict data privacy or localization of data infrastructures may be a barrier to data sharing / open data. How do we reconcile this tension? One thing I would note here is that most people’s concerns were dealing with digital trace data, not traditionally qualitative data. Beyond copyright issues, I don’t remember hearing too much concern with sharing qualitative data, perhaps because the infrastructure or ability to share/analyze such data at scale (for profit / control)  isn’t quite as common.

Angela Okune's picture
November 12, 2019

AO: Data Protection Law that just passed was a big one and ties closely to GDPR. Phares Kariuki mentioned “GDPR biases towards big companies that have the capacity to comply. Even companies like Jumia are not GDPR compliant.” Copyright law needs to also be more clear. I mentioned that data cannot be copyrighted, only outputs; but messy grey when we talk about qual data very broadly to include what you might call “outputs”; fair use clause. (This is what I know based on US law, how does it work in KE?) Issue of data retention and disposal of data at odds with archiving and creation of data commons. People could use GDPR as justification for destroying incriminating data?? (not unlike the fires of the British colonial government documents on the eve of Independence).