Published on Nasikiliza

How Maputo is driving new forms of collaboration between citizens and city governments

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The true test is whether open data leads to improvements in public services.

Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, celebrated its 130th anniversary in November. But that’s not its only milestone: This year, it became only the second city in sub-Saharan Africa to have its own open data platform—one of many exciting results to come out of its Open Data Roadmap.

The roadmap is just part of the long history of collaboration between the World Bank Group and Maputo. In the past decade, ProMaputo I and II have supported a broad range of work, from urban infrastructure and accountability to municipal governance and staff capacity building. And, since 2013, the Bank has also been supporting a citizen-driven agenda.

As a result, Maputo’s Mayor launched another innovative service: Maputo’s Open Data Platform.

It arrives at a critical moment: The Mozambican government is under pressure from the international community to improve its transparency and its accountability, especially after last year’s revelations about the country’s hidden debt crises. Pivoting toward technology-enabled transparency through open data is not only a strategic decision but also a necessary one.

This is the second consecutive year the Mayor has announced such a service; last year, he launched MOPA, a 311 service that helps residents of Maputo report problems they have with municipal waste management, and helps them track local service delivery counterparts.

Data-driven innovation

The Open Data Roadmap began in mid-2016 and follows a four-step approach:

  1. Initially, the Bank did some context analysis, applying proven Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA) methodology. This helped identify opportunities and challenges.
  2. Maputo’s Municipality then designated an open data team. This team selected datasets (identified as quick wins during the ODRA assessment) and started “opening” that data—a process that involves many steps to ensure the information is accurate, reliable, and up for release under an open data license. These datasets led to an initial beta release of the Open Data Platform in 2017.
  3. Publishing open data is never sufficient enough to foster a vibrant ecosystem of data producers and consumers. So, to demonstrate its value, the Municipality held a datathon with the Bank and the support of a variety of local stakeholders ranging from banks, universities, incubators, and software developers’ associations.
  4. This pioneering, four-month process challenged local entrepreneurs, students, and developers to create digital, citizen-serving tools OpenDataton Maputo 2017 the first-ever all-night hackathon in Mozambique. It brought together over 100 youngsters, out of which four teams were chosen as winners.
  5. The fourth step of the Roadmap seeks to foster the sustainability of this nascent ecosystem. The winning teams are to receive grants for online courses and receive the help of key players from the local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. The solutions they developed during the hackathon were displayed by Maputo’s Mayor on the same day that Maputo’s refined Open Data Platform was launched.
Capitalizing on enthusiasm: contestants designed apps for blood donors, health care, tax collection, and finding your land title.

OpenDataton Hackathon

So, what did the hackathon look like? In October, more than 100 young Mozambican designers, software developers, and civic technologists gathered to make use of Maputo’s open data, and create the prototypes of tools to address problems citizens face. These four apps represent an important step toward a more citizen-focused, data-driven Municipality. They are:

  1. +Life is an app that encourages people to donate blood using incentives and games. The tool links the needs of blood banks in healthcare institutions to communities of possible blood donors.
  2. SISCod mitigates speculates and lowers the risk of dispute over land titles. Through a mobile app and a service that allows interaction via a basic mobile phone, SISCod makes it easier for people to gain access to the city’s official land ownership records.
  3. Imp+ helps citizens pay their municipal taxes electronically or by mobile phone. This will make it easier for users to get hold of a certificate of payment for their local taxes.
  4. Maputo Health Care is an app that matches people to health care providers which might have the services to address their needs.

What have we learned?

Can Open Data open new doors for working with city governments to improve services for their residents? Based on the experience of Maputo, the answer is a conditional “yes.” Through collaboration between all stakeholders, including the municipal government and the World Bank Group, there are grounds for optimism.

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