Opinion: ‘Transparency advocates must learn from gay rights movement’

The US wants transparency. It says governments that post all their data online are more prosperous and stable than their opaque, Kafkaesque counterparts. But after the stage lights in Washington DC's Foggy Bottom district are dimmed on the US-Africa summit this week, and African leaders have jetted back to their respective capitals, the question on everyone's mind might be: will African leaders really sit around a table with NGOs and heed their calls? One of Africa's thought-leaders says she isn't so sure and thinks African open‑government activists might need to adopt a new strategy.

"We need to learn from the gay rights movement," Ory Okolloh told me when we met on the sidelines of the Open Knowledge festival in Berlin last month.

A fixture of Africa's nascent open government movement, Okolloh's much-lauded website, Mzalendo, put her on the map by giving Kenyans the ability to track their once secretive parliament, earning her a place on Time magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people. She blogs about data openness and once used her perch as Google's policy manager in Africa to push for transparency around the continent. But she worries that the global open government movement is "hitting a wall" in its efforts to hold politicians accountable to their citizens. Continue>>>