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Is Open Data Working for Women in Africa?

Web Foundation · July 13, 2018

Open data has the potential to change politics, economies and societies for the better by giving people more opportunities to engage in the decisions that affect their lives.

But to reach the full potential of open data, it must be available to and used by all. Yet, across the globe — and in Africa in particular — there is a significant data gap. So far, open data initiatives supported by governments, civil society and funders have largely overlooked how open data can be used to meet the needs of women specifically. This needs to change.

Our new report — Is open data working for women in Africa— maps the current state of open data for women across Africa, with insights from country-specific research in Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda and South Africa with additional data from a survey of experts in 12 countries across the continent.

Our findings show that, despite the potential for open data to empower people, it has so far changed little for women living in Africa.

This report should act as a wake-up call — for policymakers, the private sector, and civil society — to invest in opportunities for women to access and use open data for their benefit.

Launching the report, Web Foundation Policy Director Nnenna Nwakanma said:

“Open and better governance is hinged to openness in data. We have spent the past 20 years encouraging female education. We are now where we had hoped to be: an Africa with women who are literate, educated and want to engage economically. Open data is needed to empower women: socially, culturally, economically and politically. Open data breaks barriers.”

Key findings

  • There is a closed data culture in Africa — Most countries lack an open culture and have legislation and processes that are not gender-responsive. Institutional resistance to disclosing data means few countries have open data policies and initiatives at the national level. In addition, gender equality legislation and policies are incomplete and failing to reduce gender inequalities. And overall, Africa lacks the cross-organisational collaboration needed to strengthen the open data movement.
  • There are barriers preventing women from using the data that is available — Cultural and social realities create additional challenges for women to engage with data and participate in the technology sector. 1GB of mobile data in Africa costs, on average, 10% of average monthly income. This high cost keeps women, who generally earn less than men, offline. Moreover, time poverty, the gender pay gap and unpaid labour create economic obstacles for women to engage with digital technology.
  • Key datasets to support the advocacy objectives of women’s groups are missing — Data on budget, health and crime are largely absent as open data. Nearly all datasets in sub-Saharan Africa (373 out of 375) are closed, and sex-disaggregated data, when available online, is often not published as open data. There are few open data policies to support opening up of key datasets and even when they do exist, they largely remain in draft form. With little investment in open data initiatives, good data management practices or for implementing Right To Information (RTI) reforms, improvement is unlikely.
  • There is no strong base of research on women’s access and use of open data — There is lack of funding, little collaboration and few open data champions. Women’s groups, digital rights groups and gender experts rarely collaborate on open data and gender issues. To overcome this barrier, multi-stakeholder collaborations are essential to develop effective solutions.

Download the report to explore the findings and recommendations in full.

 


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