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OLUSEUN ONIGBINDE, H’15

A Social Entrepreneur Makes Open Data in Nigeria a Public Reality
Despite being one of Africa’s richest economies, Nigeria still struggles with numerous socio-economic challenges and instances of government corruption. Nigerian social entrepreneur Oluseun Onigbinde decided to combine his expertise in journalism, strategy, and finance to create a digital solution that would make public data accessible to the general populace. Learn how he’s made open data in Nigeria a reality with the success of his startup BudgIT.

“Deepening the public discussion based on empirical facts is key to a better society.”

Value of Open Data

THE CHALLENGE. Nigeria shifted to a democratic model in 1999, but corruption, disproportion distribution of wealth, and a lack of transparency still linger from the former military regime. Despite being one of Africa’s richest economies, with a GDP of $404 billion as of 2016, the country was ranked just 148 out of 180 countries in the Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index, signifying the persistence of widespread corruption. Opaque transparency and misinformation of government spending is one of the leading barriers to correcting this corruption. With data literacy varying to large degrees across the populace and the fractured dissemination of public information by the government, Nigerian citizens faced incredible challenges in both accessing and understanding public data, public finances, and government spending. These barriers prevent public participation in important aspects of government policy and budgeting, allowing instances of corruption to persist.

THE PROCESS. As a journalist and social entrepreneur, Oluseun Onigbinde had long valued the importance of public data and information. These values, combined with his career and experience in finance, alerted him to the need to publicize government spending in a way that would be accessible to all Nigerians. He soon found the inspiration to make his idea a reality. While he was working at First Bank, Onigbinde formed a team with Joseph Agunbiade during a hackathon held at the Co-Creation Hub, and formulated a plan for a new startup called BudgIT. His vision was to utilize technology and other tools that were in common use by the public — mobile phones, interactive applications, Internet, and even town hall forums — to create accessibility to public finance information. By connecting with a pool of civil society nationwide and by transforming data into easily understood forms such as infographics, BudgIT would help citizens understand public projects and enable Nigerians to hold the government accountable for budget spending. With public finance data more widely available, and with the population more engaged, elements of corruption could be curbed.

THE RESULT. As a social entrepreneur, when BudgIT launched in 2011, Onigbinde had the high goal of engaging 2 million Nigerians through the BudgIT website and platforms. BudgIT met this goal in 2017, when their analysis of the 2017 federal budget reached over 2.5 million Nigerians and saw 25,000 citizens participate in the review process. As a direct result of this campaign, action was taken on “fake” projects and inefficient budgetary items, such as exposing a 41 million Naira investment for funding a youth center that was non-existent. BudgIT’s initiatives have grown to extend beyond its website. For example, the company’s Twitter feed serves as an online public forum for commentary on the budget and public projects. BudgIT also expanded its services, introducing Tracka, which functions as a project tracking tool and monitors public projects in over 600 Nigerian communities. Through its participation in international organizations such as CIVICUS, Open Government Partnership, and the OPEN Alliance, BudgIT is also on track with Onigbinde’s goal of partnering with organizations and ventures in neighboring African countries.

“Onigbinde is no doubt a thorn in the side of some of Nigeria’s elite. To me, he is an example of what one person can do to make a difference.” – Bill Gates

Onigbinde has received numerous awards for his work as a social entrepreneur, including the Ashoka Fellowship, Quartz Africa 30 Innovators Award, and Future Africa Awards, among others. The success of BudgIT’s platforms and campaigns demonstrate that improvements can be made in public institutions and reducing corruption when citizens have access to open data in a way that encourages engagement and data literacy.

LEARN MORE ABOUT BUDGIT

Founded in 2011, BudgIT is a civic startup that utilizes technology as a way to provide access to open data and increase data literacy. The four key focus areas are Budget Access, Project Tracking, Extractive Transparency, and Institutional Support. Through the use of infographics, social media, interactive applications, and mobile apps. BudgIT stimulates transparency, accountability, and better outcomes in the private and public sectors. The vision of the company and its social entrepreneur founder, Oluseun Onigbinde, is to make public data a social object while fostering a community of engaged citizens.

BudgIT’s for-profit arm has fully pivoted to Fitila Africa and will be managed by an independent team. The team plans to raise a seed round in late 2019.

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Journalism, Finance, and Open Data

ABOUT OLUSEUN ONIGBINDE

A Leading Innovator in Journalism, Finance, and Open Data

Oluseun Onigbinde is a social entrepreneur, leading digital innovator, and advocate for the open data movement and an engaged society. He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, attended the University of London and Loyola College in Ibadan, and completed the Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford GSB. Onigbinde has pursued careers both in finance and journalism, and is a Knight International Innovation Fellow with the International Center for Journalists. He is also is a contributor to the Data Journalism Handbook and an Open Knowledge Foundation Ambassador. His many awards include the Ashoka Fellowship, Bloomberg Media Journalism Fellow, Quartz Africa 30 Innovators Award, Aspen New Voices Fellowship, and the Bloomberg Media Journalism Fellowship. Currently, Onigbinde is part of the inaugural Obama Foundation Scholars program and is on an operational break from BudgIT at the moment for the program at Columbia.

 

His career in the financial sector focused on strategy and digital technologies in banking and led to the co-founding of BudgIT. The company made Forbes Magazine’s list of top five exciting African startups to watch out for in 2013, and both Bono and Mark Zuckerberg listed BudgIT as an exemplary case for a more united, connected earth. The innovative approach of BudgIT is to improve the existing methods of making government budgets and public data more simple and accessible to citizens.

“Being a concerned individual who values the treasure chest of the Nigerian economy, I have taken deep interest in Nigeria’s public space and as a regular commentator in offline and online communities. I believe deepening the public discuss based on empirical facts is key to a better society I passionately relish.”

Onigbinde believes that offering his ideas to the Nigerian public space grants him fulfillment as an individual who believes in a just, transparent, and fair society where the commons of the society is managed in a prudent and transparent manner and the right of every citizen to have equal access of information is respected. His vision for BudgIT is strong sustainability and he expects that the impact will have a spillover effect on the West African states as the company plans to open offices and deepen partnerships outside of Nigeria. As an ardent social entrepreneur, Onigbinde is exploring expanding BudgIT into the private sector and securing funds coming from corporate services, such as BudgIT’s partnership with Africapitalism Institute to redefine document presentation through the use of infographics.

I AM A HARAMBEAN

Onigbinde appreciates that Harambe provides an opportunity learn from brilliant minds across the globe:

“The Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance provides me access to an outstanding team of mentors and funders to scale my organization to new heights. It is also an exciting moment to share my story, challenges, and collaborative opportunities that abound. This cluster of leading entrepreneurs also helps my interest to study new practices and approaches in terms of transparency, open government, and accountability programs and find ways to instill that into our immediate pan-African expansion plans.”