Monday, August 12, 2013

Report: The OGP Conference in Mombasa, May 29-30, 2013 @ Serena Hotel

OGP Africa Conference Mombasa
Dates: May 29-30, 2013
Venue: Serena Hotel, Mombasa

The OGP Africa conference in Mombasa was an eye opener for me and I learned a lot of things despite my participation in webnars organized by ICJ at the country World Bank Offices.
I was able to make for day one despite some logistical problems. The formal opening of the conference was conducted by the then new ICT secretary Dr. Fred Matiangi. This was one of his first public events in his new capacity as the secretary of ICT in the new Jubilee administration. Thereafter, we’re welcomed to Mombasa by the deputy governor.
When government officials from other African countries stood to address the conference you could pick pan-African overtones. This was due to proximity of OGP Africa Conference to African Union at 50 celebrations and most of the government officials had flown to Mombasa from Addis Ababa. This trend was to change in the mid morning session when CSO leaders addressed us and the panel discussions we’re conducted. However, the time allocated seemed little since the panelist we’re many and this left little time for Q&A.
Afternoon presentation by Joe Powell and Paul Maassen on OGP was most informative. However, in my opinion this needs to have been scheduled earlier.
The breakout sessions were the best part of the day for me because in this sessions we we’re few in number and the panel was small and thus a lot was covered in this sessions. I attended managing public resources more effectively breakout chaired by Robert Hunja from WB. In these sessions the panelists shared their experiences. One of the panelists was a government minister from Tanzania who shared how their government goes about managing resources. There was also voice from the civil society and women organisation in this session.
Gala dinner was served in the evening and during this session I got a chance to speak to the Sierra Leone Information minister who was in our dinner table. We had a fruitful engagement at end of it I came to know Sierra Leone far better from the diamonds stereotype 
Day two was similar to day one however what sticks to my mind to date is the superb manner in which the moderator Rakesh Rajani handled the session. Rajani advised CSO’s to indentify champions in government who they can work with to progressive push their agenda. 
In the afternoon there we’re informal session and I attended the one organized by Open Institute Kenya on Open Data.

Transparency and accountability initiatives in different sectors
Transparency being one of the pillars of OGP movement was addressed both in the conference sessions and on the corridors. There is a tendency for CSO to pontificate on the need for governments to become transparent while they remain opaque. This notion was questioned by the then ICT PS Bitange Ndemo who in his hilarious presentations pointed some of this issues.
Also, in the breakout session I attended which was moderated by Robert Hunja went to great lengths to look into the assertions of transparency both at government level and at the CSO level.

Lessons learnt
In my breakout session on managing public resources I learned how the government tendering process works and how we have come far from an opaque process to a far better process that is not in any way perfect.
The need for CSO to identify champions and reform heads in governments they can work with.  After identification, seek for ways to work with these reform persons using an approach given to as by Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza, Tanzania.
The OGP was explained very well by Joe Powell and Paul Maassen
I got to appreciate different context and operating environments esp. the antagonism witnessed between
Uganda government and the CSO operating in that country.

  • OGP should have allocated more time for breakout sessions because they had the optimum number of people to conduct meaningful interaction.
  • The proceeding of this OGP in Mombasa should be made into a documentary which can be assessed by people who were not lucky like us to attend the conference.  Documentaries should also be made on countries going through the process of joining OGP movement so that they can be used by countries that are seeking to join this movement.
  • After the conference there is need to look for administrators who are in touch with what is happening in the African OGP movement to be updating this site: so that it is as vibrant and up to date like the international site:
  • OGP Africa movement should partner with a local university or research hub to quantum the benefits of OGP to the local ecosystems. 

Overall the Mombasa OGP Africa conference was a good exposure for me and I am currently working on my application for the London OGP Annual Summit. 

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