Open Data: Why it Matters

Sylvana Lewin, Wednesday February 28th 2018

On Saturday, March 3rd, techies all around the world will gather to celebrate Open Data Day. This year’s Open Data Day focuses on four key areas: open research data, tracking public money flows, open mapping, and data for equal development.

Over 300 events are taking place all around the world, and we are proud to say that two MEST alumni, Akin-Awokoya Emmanuel and Oluwole Oyekanmi, will be spearheading our own event in Lagos at the MEST Incubator. We spoke with InvestXD cofounder Akin-Awokoya Emmanuel to get the scoop on all things open data.

What is Open Data Day?

Open Data Day is  an annual celebration of open data all over the world. The idea is to ensure that data is free and available to use by all. We have over the years stored data in silos away from credible and valuable use. Hence, Open Data Day looks to raise awareness for the democratization of data and information in the world. This year’s celebration will be the seventh annual event with groups from around the world creating local events, where they will use open data in their communities.

The open data day in Lagos is sponsored by MEST, and organised by myself and Oluwole Oyekanmi, the head of operations at Quantextive.

How did you get interested in open data?

I stumbled upon the idea of open data while surfing the Internet for my first data analysis course. I got more insight  from the Internet Governance Forum, different open writing groups, and events I consequently started attending.

Why is open data important?

Data is the currency of the future. With data, we can understand the past and make more accurate predictions of the future. Opening data reduces barriers to entry for newbies, researchers, and tech entrepreneurs so that they can be more innovative and create value (economic, social, even political). Having open data means that we can have all the data we need to create the future that we want.

[caption id="attachment_6499" align="aligncenter" width="300"] InvestXD cofounder Akin-Awokoya Emmanuel[/caption]

How do you think governments and major corporations can support open data?

First, the government can begin by setting policies that promote transparency, accountability, and value creation by making government data available to all. By making their datasets available, public institutions become more transparent and accountable to citizens. Also, the government can ensure that the bulk of data that is publicly available already is machine readable. Having APIs and data in CSV format will encourage public participation.

What do you hope to see in the future for Open Data?

I hope to see more institutions, policy makers and government organisations have an open data strategy or even embrace the API economy.  By leveraging open data and applying the principles of open access and open science, organisations can collaborate with external researchers to implement analytic, stochastic research models that improve the efficiency of operations. I hope to see entrepreneurs and young people maximise the opportunity this stream of data provides to define the future with hope.

At MEST and Meltwater, we believe insights from open, external data are crucial to the future of business. Visit to learn more about how access to external data will change the way companies make decisions.