n Mousaion - The role of record keeping and open government data initiatives in fostering a critical development of open government policies and public services in sub-Saharan Africa

Volume 30, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0027-2639



In the last few years, the global community has focused its attention on the need for the provision of better public services to citizens of the world. "Better public services" in the context of this presentation refers to "a more cost-effective and efficient public service system" that guarantees cheaper, faster and more targeted services (i.e. service delivery) in a transparent, participatory and accountable manner. Beginning with the public sector reforms of the mid-1980s, which culminated in the so-called "New Public Management" system, and ultimately in the "good government" and "e-government" initiatives of the late 20th and the early 21st centuries, the global quest has continued to focus, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, on ways and means of improving service delivery and forging better interaction between government and citizens. This transformation gave rise to important buzzwords such as transparency, accountability and open government, which have proved to be critical initiatives in pushing the agenda for freedom of information laws, the adoption of e-government initiatives, and more recently, the open government data initiative. "Open data", a key component of open government, revolves around the principle of proactively disclosing government-generated information to citizens to enable them take greater ownership of, and participate more fully in their government's decision-making processes and activities. Unfortunately, during the last decade, much of the work on open data has concentrated on data sets and related computer applications that generate and provide information about government activities and mandates such as websites, while paying little, or no attention to government record-keeping processes, which essentially determine the quality and integrity of data generated and maintained in manual as well as automated systems. This article argues that a meaningful contribution to transparency, accountability, open government and citizens' rights to better and/or improved public services, can only be realised if we align open data policies and initiatives with record keeping initiatives which provide the means through which to guarantee the creation, capture, availability and usability of accurate, reliable and trustworthy records as evidence of open-government initiatives.

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