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Open Data for Development and the Open Elections in Burkina

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Led by the Open Data Institute (ODI), the Open Data for Development network has worked with the government of Burkina Faso in the past two years to establish their national open data initiative. In early 2015, the Burkina Open Data Initiative (BODI) team expressed a desire to organise an open elections project in Burkina Faso, to bring greater transparency to their upcoming elections.  Burkina Faso was heading for the polls for the first free election in 30 years heavily influenced by legacies of former liberation comrades Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaoré.

 

Our support for the BODI team began by offering strategic advice on how to organise and execute such a project. ODI also convened meetings in Burkina Faso with key organisations, including the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). These organisations all had domain expertise in organising elections and vote counts, so were best placed to provide advice.

 

As part of the OD4D network, the ODI supported the BODI team with financial support, to fund the development of a candidate information website styled on YourNextMP, and the development of the website burkina2015.bf, which was used to publish the results information. The ODI also supported the BODI team to publish the data, enabling others to use the data (and provide a backup when the results website crashed through to user demand). This included mentoring from the ODI technical team on publishing data in appropriate formats, writing supporting documentation and adding an open licence.

 

The results

By midday on Monday November 30 2015 – the day after Burkina Faso’s presidential election – citizens had a reliable early indication of who would be their first elected head of state since the overthrow of strongman Blaise Compaoré last year.

The results website received 3.2 million page requests from over 38,000 unique visitors in two days – demonstrating the number of interested individuals, but also that they repeatedly refreshed the page to follow the updated numbers as they were released.

Lessons

OD4D observed that focussing on a sector-based problem allows for targeted training, whilst building general capacity: the ODI provided specialist support around different elements of the project, primarily to solve a particular problem the BODI team was facing. The BODI team can now use that expertise in other areas of their work.

Also, the experience unveiled that elections are a sector where open data has a high potential impact to build trust: there is an almost uniquely high citizen demand for timely, data based information at a particular point in time and there is existing global infrastructure supporting election processes, which can be brought to scale, strengthen local institutions in many other places.

 

More info – Burkina Faso blogs