Ndemo knew that the success of open data reforms would hinge largely on approvals from ministries to release data through a public website; obtaining such approvals would be costly in terms of time and energy.
In early 2011, Ndemo made a strategic decision. He opted to launch the government's open data site with information that was already in the public domain, but not yet broadly available or in a usable form. In doing so, he sidestepped the need to confront government agencies about their release of nonpublic information. As the legislative backbone of his efforts, Ndemo pointed to the 2010 constitution, which called for the government to "publish and publicize any important information affecting the nation."
Although Ndemo's open data initiative operated within existing parameters, he still found it difficult to loosen ministries' tight grip on government information. Needing high-level backing, he made his case during a personal visit with President Kibaki in June 2011. "I went to the president and told him we have a lot of data in government, which we can use and convert into businesses for the youth and for more employment," Ndemo said. "He is an economist, and he understood all this very quickly." Kibaki gave his blessing to the open data project and accepted Ndemo's invitation to preside at a launch event a few weeks later.
The tight timeline put pressure on Ndemo to move quickly but also worked in his favor. Before approaching the president, Ndemo had met with planning, finance, health, and education officials to get data or secure permission for using data the officials had already supplied to the World Bank.
To expedite the data-gathering process and lessen the workload on ministries, Ndemo accepted data in any format, printed or digital. Paul Kukubo, chief executive officer of the ICT Board explained, "The idea was that any data is good. We will do the hard work in making that data relevant and cleaning it on our end."
Ndemo formed a task force of 23 members comprising public officials, developers, and World Bank data experts. The group had teams responsible for (1) solving technical and usability issues, and getting the website up and running; (2) cleaning and formatting data for presentation on the site; (3) addressing legal and policy matters, including terms and conditions for data usage; and (4) organizing the launch-day event. The task force, especially the data team, received technical support from data experts at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C..
The task force settled a number of strategic questions at its first meeting. The team would focus on data visualization -- visual representation of information through graphs, maps, applications, and easily downloadable files -- instead of just posting PDF files or tables on the website. It also decided to develop applications to showcase how the data could be used. For building the actual portal, Ndemo and other team members agreed to contract with an outside firm to secure the software platform, and customize it for Kenya's needs.