Category Archives: South Africa

Open Data Day celebrated in Nairobi, 2 March 2019

Contribution by Allan Ochola

International Open Data Day (IODD) is an annual celebration of open data all over the world and March 2nd, 2019 was the 9th time in history during which various groups organised events. Kenya was no exception. The Kenya event was attended by graduate students from various universities, industry experts and representatives from academia. Two confirmed speakers sent a last minute cancellation and could not be replaced in time.

Event speakers
Allan Ochola (graduate student, Kenyatta University) and Janegrace Kinyanjui (University librarian, Egerton University)

The topics discussed included the role of libraries in promoting open access/ open data, opportunities available in open data and how to practice open data. The unique nature of the event enabled participants from various interdisciplinary backgrounds to define strategies that advance open data globally and locally, and learn about recent advances in open data.

The format of the event allowed for peer discussions by the participants. Discussions focussed on sources of open data, data interoperability, data timeliness, data ownership, data privacy and confidentiality, incentives for sharing data including a revival of the Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI). Another discussion was on “why many open data initiatives are drives to open government data”. Another challenge is private sector actors who are increasingly locking away what they and many consider to be ‘their’ data.

Future directions
Notwithstanding, there is a lot of interest in creating an environment that facilitates effective sharing and re-use. Participants’ feedback revealed that there is little awareness on open data among the public due to the lack of an open culture and processes that are not user responsive. Not surprisingly, key data sets to support the open data evangelism (e.g. data on cancer and maternal mortality) are largely absent as open data.
Therefore, there is a need:
 To develop and organize training workshops for open advocates.
 Promote exchange of ideas among different stakeholders.
 Establish connectivity of open advocates and strategic partners.
 Open landscape in Kenyan Universities: awareness creation and infrastructure development.

Committee on Data of the International Council for Science (CODATA), Africa Open Science Platform (AOSP), Kenya Education Network and Information Training and Outreach Centre for Africa (ITOCA) communities who helped to spread information about the event on their platforms.

This event was supported by the United States of America Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya


Other Open Data Day Events

Presentations during Open data Day at the University of Cape Town

UP embracing the 4IR

Call for Participation in Big Data Transfer to be used for Proof of Concepts

The South African National Research Network (SANReN, NICIS) are working on a service for the South African Research and Education community – big data transfer service. This will be based on Science DMZs and data transfer nodes (DTNs). Currently, we have nodes at CSIR (Pretoria), WITS (Johannesburg) and Cape Town.

We are looking for users with large data sets to be used for proof of concepts for the service. Anyone with > 10 GB of research/science data, particularly those with current issues in moving it around (e.g. considers shipping hard-drives of data instead of using the SA NREN), are good potentials.

Please contact Renier van Heerden ( ) or Kasandra Pillay or the PERT team if we can assist with your large data transfers.


Towards a Framework for Open Science in SA: SA-EU Open Science Dialogue Report released

During the past SFSA2018, the SA-EU Open Science Dialogue Report was released. Where AOSP – for now (Pilot Phase) – focuses on creating awareness, advocating and recommending frameworks (incl. roadmaps) towards a continental, but also national frameworks for individual countries (to be finalised in 2019), this SA-EU Open Science Dialogue Report is the outcome of work to put in place a SA Open Science Framework.

A key challenge facing Open Sci­ence in South Africa – as in many countries – is the issue of fragmen­tation, and absence of a common sense of direction. Hence, the decision to develop an overarching national framework on Open Sci­ence. The Open Science Framework for South Africa articulates a set of guidelines and princi­ples for publicly funded open science and open data for the South African context. The Open Science Framework also includes action points for key stakeholders such as relevant govern­ment departments, universities, science coun­cils, civil society and industry.

The work on this framework started in December 2016. As shared previously, Open Science forms an integral part of the newly released (Draft) SA White Paper on STI.

Read more about the SA-EU Strategic Partnership Dialogue Facility  –  Dialogue Area: Science and Technology at

Relevance of Open Data Towards a Sustainable Environment – SFSA 2018

Science Forum South Africa (SFSA) has become a highlight on the calendar of many South Africans and those from abroad. Attracting individuals from all fields of science, researchers, policy makers and students, the forum saw over 3 000 registrations. Science Forum South Africa aligns with the global World Science Forum, annually hosted by countries from all over the world. World Science Forum 2019 will take place from 20 to 23 November 2019, Budapest, Hungary.

It was during SFSA 2016 that the African Open Science Platform (AOSP) was first announced. During SFSA 2018, AOSP hosted a session titled “Relevance of open data towards a sustainable environment”, focussing on data in priority disciplines. The session was well attended, and the panel comprised of three speaker’s all from different African countries and fields. The first to present was Ms Eiman Karar, Senior Advisor at the United Nations Environmental Programme in Sudan. Ms Karar’s focus was on water data, highlighting the inequality to accessing water on the continent. Dr Mohamed El-Hadidi, Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics at the Nile University in Egypt focussed on genomic data. He illustrated how data from genomics could be used to address the sustainable development goals i.e. allowing plant breeders to access and identify variation in genomes that are useful for crop improvement, addressing sustainable development goal 2, namely “zero hunger”. The last speaker was Dr Suzanne Smit, an executive board member of the Urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment (uMAMA) research group based at Stellenbosch University. Her presentation was on planning, measuring and monitoring in building sustainable cities in urban Africa, which speaks to sustainable development goal 11. According to Dr Smit, data from the informal settlements are required to inform housing policies. Slums are dynamic, and more frequent and current data are needed from these areas to plan ahead.

The above presentations opened the way for a more focussed approach to be followed by AOSP during 2019. It is clear that lots of data intensive research are conducted on the continent, and that if high priority discipline specific areas can align and share data, science can be accelerated, finding solutions faster, pooling efforts together through possible collaboration in terms of infrastructure, data repositories, and more.

The audience was captivated and learnt more on the importance of data including opening it up. Presentations were followed by a brief question and answer session. During the closing session, it was indicated that AOSP’s pilot phase (2016-2019) would not end here, and will be followed by a phase two of the project. The announcement received huge applause and excitement from the room. The AOSP launch document was shared with the audience at the forum and made available online. Access the recorded live stream of the AOSP Phase 2 announcement here.

View the report from the AOSP Session during SFSA 2018.

Listen to the recording from the SFSA Closing Session, mentioning AOSP Phase 2.

AOSP during the upcoming SFSA2018 (12-14 Dec. 2018, CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, SA)

We are looking very much forward welcoming all to the upcoming Science Forum South Africa (SFSA) 2018. Please encourage academics, researchers, citizen scientists and more to join.

View the programme by clicking here. Click here to register (registration is free).

The draft programme for the AOSP Session on 13 Dec. 2018, 11:00-12:30, Diamond Room, CSIR International Convention Centre:

Relevance of open data towards a sustainable environment


Susan Veldsman, Director Scholarly Publishing, ASSAf, SA


The Open Africa Data Platform for Sustainable Water Management
Ms Eiman Karar, United Nations Environmental Programme, Sudan

Applications of Big Data Analytics in Bioinformatics and Biomedical Sciences
Prof Mohamed El-Hadidi, Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics, Nile University, Egypt

Planning, measuring and monitoring in building sustainable cities in an urban Africa
Ms Suzaan Smit, Researcher, Stellenbosch University, SA

Looking forward welcoming all soon!


Advocating for Open Science during the DST/ASSAf Roadshow towards the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

The 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting gives 500 to 600 outstanding young scientists the opportunity to discuss key questions in physics with 30 Nobel laureates. In 2019, the focus will be on cosmology, particle physics and quantum technology. Young scientists across Africa are encouraged to source funding and to also apply to attend this prestigious meeting.

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), will be seeking and supporting South African candidates to participate in the 2019 Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting to be held from 30 June to 5 July 2019 in Lindau, Germany.

The 69th Meeting of Nobel Laureates will be dedicated to Physics. The meeting will be attended by Nobel Laureates in Physics and about 600 highly-talented young scientists from across the world.

As part of a Roadshow to create awareness, and to encourage young scientists to apply, AOSP participated and presented key notes on Open Science during the various interactions with the universities, creating more awareness of Open Science locally. Open Science includes the whole spectrum of openness – from open data repositories, to open access institutional repositories and open access scholarly journals, such as the journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). The events were financially sponsored by the ASSAf International and National Liaison Office. Inquiries can be directed to Ms Edith Shikumo at

Deployment of Open Data Driven Solutions for Socio-Economic Value through Good Governance and Efficient Public Service Delivery, 30 August 2018

AOSP presentation during the third seminar in the Innovation for Inclusive Development (IID) series. The seminars are hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The information collected and the recommendations made will be used to inform and influence government policy via the DST.


Presented by Ina Smith, African Open Science Platform
The African Open Science Platform project aims to understand policies related to open science and open data on the continent. The project also considers infrastructure, capacity building and incentives. Research data inform government policies and decisions, and government data inform research. Access to quality data is increasingly important. Without data, one is just another person with an opinion.

Governments use taxpayers’ money and therefore need to build transparency, accountability and trust, much of which can be achieved through the correct management of open data. An example of this was the follow-up to the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Foreign national health and aid workers came to Africa and collected much data on the outbreak, which they took home with them when they left. Only after the outbreak was under control was there a call for good open data from researchers for use in possible future outbreaks. Collecting data is expensive, so re-using data and building on existing data is essential. Another example was the case of the high incidence of species substitution and mislabelling detected in meat products sold in South Africa. Unfortunately the complete research results were not made available to the public. Citizens have the right to see this type of data in order to make their own informed decisions.

Open data will streamline the dissemination of information, including the sharing of information between government departments. Open access will help democratise the country through the provision of equal access to all, and will provide information for better decision-making by policy-makers. Access to open data enables the targeting of resources, but deep understanding of how to curate valuable data resources is essential. To maximise the usefulness of data, it is essential that it is well curated, as open as possible, and as closed as necessary.

In order to address global challenges, international collaboration and the sharing of government data is very important. Unfortunately South Africa is lagging in this regard. The documents on the South Africa National Data Portal were uploaded in 2015 and nothing has been added since then. The Open Data Institute publishes some government information in their report Supporting sustainable development with open data, and also shows many examples of how data can help countries address socio-economic challenges.

Delegates were encouraged to attend International Data Week in Gaborone, Botswana from 5–8 November 2018. Information on the event is available at

Release of SA Draft White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation – 10 Sept. 2018

Science, technology and innovation enabling sustainable and inclusive development in a changing world

Also see the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (Please share news on adoption of strategies within your countries with AOSP)

Full paper available at–on-STI-7_09.pdf 

Twenty years after the adoption of the first White Paper on Science and Technology (DST) in 1996, the SA Department of Science and Technology began developing a new draft White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), which was approved by Cabinet last week. The new document will ensure a growing role for STI in building a more prosperous and inclusive society.  It focuses on using STI to accelerate inclusive economic growth, make the economy more competitive and improve people’s everyday lives.

The white paper says the following about Open Science and Open Innovation (pages 44-45):

“The OECD estimates that 30% of innovation in Europe is open in the sense of being shared. For example, the Philips Research Campus in Eindhoven invites industry participation with a view to facilitating collaboration between publicly funded and privately funded research. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation malaria project is also using data from a number of resources, because open innovation means that the disease can be addressed more quickly. It must be remembered, however, that open innovation does not mean “free”. Patents and intellectual property rights still apply, but only at the end of the innovation process.

The DST is actively examining the transition to open science and open innovation. This will call for appropriate regulatory frameworks and data skills development, as discussed below.

Incentives for open science will be fostered through education programmes and career development programmes for researchers. A focus on citizen science will also be introduced. Barriers to open science will be evaluated and where necessary removed, ensuring that legislation and practice support, rather than thwart, the principles of open and collaborative science. Government will therefore review these, taking into account certain aspects of intellectual property rights from publicly funded research and accepting that open science, open innovation and intellectual property, and the associated rights, are not mutually exclusive. Government will also review the policies and institutions governing access to research data and research publications.

As a general principle, publicly funded research and research data may, after a careful analysis, be made available (with some exceptions including data that can compromise sovereign security and which is of a confidential nature). Government will encourage researchers to deposit data arising from research in publicly accessible repositories, and to support open journal publishing and data sharing, providing access to data and other research outputs arising from publicly funded research. In this manner, research will be made more transparent, rigorous and efficient in stimulating innovation and promoting public engagement.

South Africa does not have formal protection for databases. Government will identify a licence system for depositing data and for the use of open data. What is in the public domain, what is not, or when it becomes available are pressing issues that need to be dealt with. Ensuring the needs and wants of the data provider are respected, and determining who can use the data, and under what conditions (research use, teaching and commercial use) are also important considerations. The Creative Commons licence is a good example for starting to draft specific licence types for different types of open data.

Contemporary open science and open innovation requires data to be findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) in the long-term, and these objectives are rapidly becoming expectations of funding agencies and publishers. The current Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Funded Research and Development Act will be reconsidered to ensure that it supports the FAIR guiding principles for scientific data management and storage.

National data storage is a further matter that needs to be addressed. The DST will develop a long-term sustainable business model for a South African research data cloud. Institutional data repositories will be encouraged. More support is also needed for the harmonisation of repositories, which can take place through the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa (DIRISA).

The DST, in consultation with Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services and DHET, will produce a national open science (and data) framework consisting of principles and guidelines for the adoption of open science in South Africa. The framework will be used as a vehicle for awareness raising and training on good practice.

The DST will work with the higher education sector and the relevant government departments to ensure data related skills development for making efficient use of new scientific datasets, tools and methods.

Digital technologies are making the conduct of science and innovation more collaborative, international and open to citizens. In the next decade, as connectivity becomes ubiquitous, the shift to more distributed, networked and open organisational models will become commonplace. Those unable to make the change will be left behind.23• 24 Therefore, government will prioritise funding for the provision of digital resources to the communities and institutions that need them the most.

As part of its commitment to African STI cooperation, South Africa will also work to advance the open science agenda elsewhere on the continent and within regional frameworks. The strategic role of the African Open Science Platform, hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa, which promotes African-wide development and coordination of data policies, data training and data infrastructure, will be leveraged with the support of the DST and the National Research Foundation (NRF). In addition, South Africa is one of the founding members of the global Open Government Partnership, and took over the chair in 2015. As one of the signatories of this partnership, South Africa is committed to developing an open data policy framework and action plan.”

Socio-Economic Value of Open Data discussed during SA DST Innovation for Inclusive Development Seminar on 30 August 2018

The SA Dept. of Science and Technology presented a valuable seminar on government data on 30 August 2018, as part of the series of Innovation for Inclusive Development Seminars. AOSP was also invited to participate in a panel discussion. The brief presentation is available here, and was one of three presented during the panel discussion.

Theme:  “Deployment of Open Data Driven Solutions for Socio-Economic Value through Good Governance and Efficient Public Service Delivery”

The following might be of interest to you:

Open Data in Developing Economies: Toward Building an Evidence Base on What Works and How

Embedding open data practice: Developing indicators on the institutionalization of open data practice in two African governments

Supporting sustainable development with data

EU The economic benefits of data

Open Data to Support the Sustainable Development Goals


Northern Cape Primed for Astrotourism Boom after Meerkat Launch

Apart from generating Big Data, the SKA project is also expected to give tourism a massive boost, benefitting the economy, and many more.

Kareeberg Municipality Mayor, Norman Van Wyk, says that R3 million has been spent on catering and a further R4 million on transport in the area since construction began in 2012.

One hundred and seven locals have been employed by the South African Astronomical Observatory between 2015 and 2017.

The Northern Cape Tourism Authority’s Dianna Martin, says plans are afoot to stimulate tourism activities along the broader Karoo Highlands Route.

“We have developed five routes in the Northern Cape to develop tourism into the area. People are coming and they are exposed to all the small villages of Williston, of Nieuwoudtville, Calvinia and then of course Carnarvon and Loxton and even to Victoria West and Fraserburg…”

She says that a new visitor information centre in town will allow tourists passing through to gain some insight into the SKA project and the surrounding communities.

WATCH: MeerKAT radio telescopes unveiled