The lack of Internet availability outside Kenya's major cities sharply curtailed the number of citizens who could use the new website. In 2012, only 6.5 million Kenyans out of a population of 43 million subscribed to an Internet connection, although 11.8 million had access to the Internet. But about 29.2 million people had mobile phones, with 98.8 percent of total Internet subscriptions through mobile phones -- one reason the ministry planned to encourage software developers to focus on phone applications that could reach a wider population.
A second challenge was timeliness. Ndemo related that after launch, "The pressure I have now is the need for real-time data." Hersman of iHub underscored the issue, asking, "How can we get updated data and engage ordinary people to make their lives better and talk about services?" An important ally in facilitating data flow was the KNBS. The bureau was Kenya's largest repository of government data. Crucially, it had staff in key ministries to gather data or monitor data collection. Ndemo tapped into this expertise, putting in place a plan to allocate responsibility for portal updates to the KNBS, while the ICT Board would continue to project-manage the site.
A third challenge arose from the muted reception the portal received within government. Sharing of government data required a greater commitment on the part of the government and a stronger legislative framework. In 2012, Ndemo and his supporters were still pushing for greater acceptance of the portal across ministries.
Despite its challenges, the open data portal provided one avenue of access to government information in Kenya. At the time of the initial launch, the portal had 200 data sets. The number stood at 434 in June 2012. The ICT Board reported 50,515 site visits as of June 2012. When the board opened a Twitter account in February 2012, 429 followers started following the portal, which had had 634 tweets by June 2012. It also reported that users had viewed 29,081 data sets and downloaded 2,600 data sets by June 2012.
The portal promoted Kenya's reputation as a progressive nation. Kenya was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to launch an open data portal, and the second one on the continent, after Morocco. The portal also facilitated Kenya's membership in the Open Government Partnership, a global effort by eight founding members -- Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, Britain, and the United States -- to promote transparency and accountability in government.
Although several factors contributed to the successful launch of Kenya's open data portal in 2011, top-level political support and the speed with which Ndemo pushed the portal forward were the two most significant. Ndemo summed up his approach to the reforms: "In government, you seize the moment and the opportunity when you get it. How do you get it? You do the end first, and then you can put the rest in place later. You simply must deal with the why you need something, then think about [the] how later."