Niyi Abiri: 'Policymakers need geospatial data to target public resources'

With the 2016 Open Data Awards just around the corner, we catch up with Abiri Oluwatosin Niyi, co-founder and lead at cMapIT.com, one of the nominees in the Open Data Business Award category.

The Open Data Awards celebrate innovation and excellence in open data across the world. Hundreds of inspiring people and organisations have been nominated. The awards will be held on 1 November 2016 at the BFI Southbank. Explore all nominees and finalists and follow #OpenDataAwards for updates on the night.

Abiri Oluwatosin Niyi

@xniyi null

Hi Abiri! What do you do, in a nutshell?

Hello! At cMapIT, we empower citizens with mobile and web applications and other technologies to monitor governments, be more efficient in their own lives, conduct research, engage in activism and ensure participatory governance works, especially at the local level.

We also address social and governance issues with geospatial solutions. We focus especially on open government, open data, connected citizens, future sustainable smart city solutions, smart governance and boosting local tech innovations for participatory governance.

What first got you excited about open data?

The fact that it empowers citizens and will boost participatory governance. It also inspires citizens to demand and monitor government transparency.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

We are strongly affected by the low appetite amongst Nigeria's telecoms companies to accommodate for rural areas (where we work), which they consider 'not viable'.

We advocate for government to open up data that is bottlenecked by bureaucracy, regulations or poor governance. Our goal is to implement open and free solutions at local governments across Nigeria. In particular, we want to help local policymakers understand the need to engage geospatial information when deciding what to do with public resources, to cut waste and ensure policies are effective. Meanwhile, we encourage them to keep geospatial data open for active citizens to monitor progress.

What kind of open data would you like to see more of?

Open geospatial data, really. Advocacy for open geospatial data is not strong in Nigeria and the rest of sub-Sahara African countries. Key development effort depends on this, and civic tech growth depends on open geospatial data.

So many states in the US make open all geospatial data around all infrastructures, especially for transport system, and release APIs to help citizens create third-party solutions and build simple applications to address bottlenecks.

Open geospatial data will enable citizen participation and, in the long-run, reduce public expenditure on tech solutions.

What are you most looking forward to about the ODI Summit and Awards?

We're looking forward to meeting with colleagues and open data experts and sharing work.

The awards will be held on 1 November 2016 at the BFI Southbank. Explore all nominees and finalists and follow #OpenDataAwards for updates on the night.