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The 2nd Nigerian Open Data Party, a Great Success

- January 20, 2016 in Event report, fellowship, Nigeria

The open data scene is rising in Nigeria, and it has seen the birth of a vibrant community: to the North, Connected Development; to the West, BudgIT, Orodata, Code for Nigeria; to the South, SabiHub and NODA, to mention a few. We all came together on the 11th and 12th of December 2015 to hold the second edition of the Open Data Party, the biggest open data event in Nigeria, with support from School of Data, Code for Nigeria and the Heinrich Böll Foundation. The first edition was hosted by Sabi Hub in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria, in collaboration with the Benson Idahosa University. The event, described as the highlight of Nigerian Open Data Conferences in 2015, brought together data enthusiasts among social workers, journalists, government officials, academics, and activists from all over Nigeria. They learned and shared skills around using data to enhance their activities.
Participants at the event.

Participants at the event.

The 2015 event was focused on waste management and saw a wealth of notable speakers/facilitators present. This included: Katelyn Rogers (Open Knowledge International Project Manager) Adam Talsma (Senior Program Designer and Nigeria Country Manager at Reboot) Stanley Achonu (Operations Lead at BudgIT), Temi Adeoye (Lead Technologist at Code for Nigeria), Nonso Jideiofor (Reboot), Joshua Olufemi  (Premium Times Nigeria), Ayodele Adeyemo (Nigeria Open Data Access),Tina Armstrong Ogbonna (Reporter with Radio Nigeria and Freelance Journalist), Oludotun Babayemi and Hamzat Lawal (Co-Creator of Follow The Money in Nigeria) and the hostess Nkechi Okwuone (School of Data Fellow, manager the Edo State Open Data Portal and Sabi Hub).
Facilitators at Open Data Party Benin

Facilitators at Open Data Party Benin

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Skill Share Session

Day 1 of the event featured sessions on Data Pipelines (Finding Data, Getting Data, Scrapping Data, Analyzing and Publishing Data) and Ground Truthing Data using Mobile Phones. Other sessions that ran concurrently dealt with Data Scraping Tools and Digital Security and Privacy. The day ended with participants encouraged to document what they wanted to learn or teach on the unconference session of Day 2

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Participants Documented their ares of interest – Either Learning or Teaching for the Unconference session

Day 2 kicked off with a panel session on waste management challenges in the Edo State and how it could be tackled from an advocacy, entrepreneurial and technology perspective.

Immediately following was a 2-hour long unconference session focusing on the learning interests written by participants on sticky notes. This included a Follow the Money session, securing funding for your ideas/projects and maximizing web analytics.

Rounding up Day 2 was the Ideation session which began with Temi Adeoye speaking to participants on how to better understand data problems, getting divergent and convergent ideas as well as thinking outside the box to get good results.

Participants formed groups and brainstormed on developing a tool/platform to solve challenges in waste management with emphasis on recycling, collection and dumping. The session lasted for 2 hours and had a total of 16 participants who were each given 3 minutes to make a presentation of their ideas to a panel.

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Winners of the Ideation Session

The winning idea came from Abdul Mohammed from Kano and Emmanuel Odianosen from Edo State who will be developing  a reporting tool to help waste managers (collectors) efficiently collect waste in communities. They were rewarded with a thousand British Pounds (£1,000) provided by School of Data, along with an incubation and mentorship package provided by Sabi Hub, Code for Nigeria and Connected Development.

And of course we went partying properly at the popular Subway Lounge In Benin City Nigeria!. The event attendees expressed delight at the effort of the organizers who ensured that the event was world class and they all look forward to a bigger event come 2016. A big Thank You to School of Data, OD4D, Code for Nigeria, Sabi Hub, Connected Development, Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Benson Idahosa University for making the event a success!

View details about the event here

See pictures and videos here   Flattr this!

Data visualisation or Data narration? Data in Radio Stories

- January 18, 2016 in Nigeria

For an outsider looking at Nigeria’s news media lately, it would seem that the only things in the mind of Nigerians are politics or security-related. Breaking news are aplenty while more involved stories, either investigative or reporting on community issues, are scarce. This is a problem, but what can we do about it? Development Watch, an initiative by Journalist for Social Development Initiative, hopes to solve this problem. They have plans for a different kind of journalism, providing objective analysis of social development issues and promoting inclusive growth across Africa. And to live up to their goal of creating quality journalism, they decided to facilitate a data journalism session on November 30, 2015, at the occasion of the launch of the main part of their web platform. Data Journalism AbujaMore than 20 journalists were present: 15 from the broadcast, 5 from the print and the others from the new media. Beyond Google Alerts, most of them had little knowledge of the useful tools for digital journalism, and even less about where to find available data in Nigeria. This was expected: we hear this from 80% of the participants to datajournalism trainings. Luckily, the point of those trainings is to familiarize them with the available tools and sources.
“To find data for my reports, I only depend on references from other works, or request a meeting with concerned organizations, as I do not know where to go to, I find this difficult for my work”  said Sam Adeko of Punch Newspapers.
 According to a recent poll by NOI Polls, a polling organisation in Nigeria, most people in the country access daily news via the radio (67%), followed by television, social media and newsprint. With this information in mind, we try to tailor our datajournalism trainings to take into account stories for radio and television, in addition to the use of tools like Infogr.am, essentially useful for print and social media. But before talking about visualising data, we had to cover some basic techniques. In this training, as is the case in many other ones, 90% of the participants used Google search to look up information, but few of them really knew how to search effectively. For example, you can search for specific content on a website by adding ‘site:example.com’ to your search phrase, which will prompt Google to only return results from the site you’ve specified. You can even narrow it down further by using ‘site:example.com/pages/’, and you’ll only see results that match that pattern. Another useful tool that was introduced was Google Trends, which allow to find which search terms are trending on Google. “I really want to know how much people are interested in President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria compared to the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. Especially in recent times, this can give me an insight on how important Nigeria is over Rwanda” explained Roluke Ogundele of the Africa Independent Television. All you need do is to enter a couple of common search phrases and you will get how this has been trending over time. We also talked about Twitter, a micro-blogging service that is becoming more widely used in Nigeria. To discover public conversations about a link, you just paste the URL you’re interested in into the search box, and then possibly hit ‘more tweets’ to see the full set of results. When the datavisualisation session eventually came, we asked the question of whether to visualize or not, and how. Tools like Google Fusion Tables, Tableau, Dipity and others make it easier than ever to create maps, charts, graphs useful for newsprint, social media, and television. But what happens when you broadcast on the radio? Because people only listen, the need of getting a story out of the data, rather than just a visualisation, is more obvious. Stories can be told in a captivating way on radio, and they can come from data. “So if you are a broadcast journalist in the radio – you have no excuse, dive in by looking at the problem you want to solve first, via the radio (also works for other media), then find and get the data, and tell your story to the world” said Gloria Ogbaki of Ray Power FM In Nigeria, data journalism is nascent, and opportunities abound. As more new journalists get into the field, thinking of which sector to dive into, there is a need for newsrooms to innovate by, for example, embedding data analysts and Information technology experts with producers of news.
As you can see, most of us never knew what data journalism is, but at the end of this training, we were all excited, and can now go back to incorporate this into our work. We hope this is not a one -time training, we need more of it in our newsrooms” said Okoye Ginka of the News Agency of Nigeria
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Making open data accessible to data science beginners

- November 6, 2015 in Data Blog, fellowship, Nigeria

If you’re reading this, I suspect you’re already familiar with open data, data science and what it entails. But if that’s not the case, fret not, here are a few beginner courses from School of Data to get you started. As new data scientists, we need easy access to substantial, meaningful data without the restrictions of cost or licenses. It’s the best way to hone our new skillset, get objective answers to questions we have and provide solutions to problems. This is a fact that has been acknowledged by leading data scientists. So, how can new data scientists get easy and timely access to this type of data? Open Data Companion (ODC) is a free mobile tool that has been created to provide quick, easy and timely access to open data. ODC acts as a unified access point to over 120 open data portals and thousands of datasets from around the world; right from your mobile device. All crafted with mobile-optimised features and design. ODC was created by Utopia Software, a developer company being mentored by the Nigerian School of Data fellow in the open data community of SabiHub in Benin city, Nigeria. We believe ODC successfully addresses some key problems facing open data adoption; particularly on the mobile platform.
  • With the growth of open data around the world, an ever-increasing number of individuals (open data techies, concerned citizens, software developers and enthusiasts), organisations (educational institutions, civic duty and civil society groups) and many more continually clamour for machine-readable data to be made available in the public domain. However, many of these interested individuals and organisations are unaware of the existence of relevant portals where these datasets can be accessed and only stumble across these portals after many hours of laborious searching. ODC solves this problem by providing an open repository of available open data portals through which portal datasets can be accessed in a reliable yet flexible manner.

  • The fact that mobile platforms and mobile apps are now a dominant force in the computing world is beyond dispute. The percentage of mobile apps used on a daily basis and their use-rate continues to grow rapidly. This means that mobile devices are now one of the easiest and fastest means of accessing data and information; if more people are to be made aware of the vast array of available open data producers, the open data at their disposal and how to use them, then open data needs a significant mobile presence with the mobile features users have come to expect. ODC tackles this problem effectively by providing a fast mobile channel with a myriad of mobile-optimised features and an easy design.

What can ODC offer data scientists? Here’s a quick run-through of its features:

  • access datasets and their meta-data from over 120 data portals around the world. Receive push notification messages when new datasets are available from chosen data portals. This feature not only ensures users get easy access to the data they need, but it also provides timely announcements about the existence of such data. image alt text
  • preview data content, create data visualisations in-app and download data content to mobile device. The app goes beyond a simple “data browser” by incorporating productivity features which allow users to preview, search and filter datasets. Data scientists can also start working on data visualisations likes maps and charts from within the app. image alt text
  • translate dataset details from various languages to your preferred language. This feature comes in really handy when users have to inspect datasets not provided in their native language. For instance, when investigating the state of agriculture and hunger across Africa, available datasets (and meta-data) would be in different languages (such as English, French, Swahili etc). ODC helps to overcome this language barrier.
  • bookmark/save datasets for later viewing and share links to datasets on collaborative networks, social media, email, sms etc., right from the app.
Armed with this tool, novice data scientists, and our more experienced colleagues, can start wrangling data with greater ease and accessibility. Do you have ideas or suggestions on how ODC can work better? Please do leave a reply! Flattr this!

Data+Drinks : a meetup to engage the open data community in the South of Nigeria

- July 20, 2015 in community, Data Blog, Data for CSOs, Data+Drinks, fellowship, Nigeria

Data is now available online, but what next? This is the throbbing question on the mind of open data stakeholders, both from the supply and demand side of it.

landing 2As the the fight for transparency and accountability in government keeps going with the help of open data, Nigerians are doing their share and innovating in that area. New initiatives around open data, open government, open education, open access… are appearing in Nigeria. But people are still used to the traditional ways of getting the  government to listen to the citizens : unions, town hall meetings, protests, etc. How do we connect with citizens, civil society organisations (CSOs), journalists, NGOs and entrepreneurs and get them to take advantage of the available data? Monitoring the way the government works, driving advocacy, improving their activities and in turn the economy are all potential benefits of making use of the data, but the message still need to be spread. Thankfully, as a 2015 School of Data fellow, I can tap into the great School of Data community of people working on improving data literacy. So what did we do? Simple : Our first step was to organize a data meetup. Called “Data + Drinks”, it was aimed at raising awareness, mapping new and existing open data initiatives and assessing the needs of the community. We invited individual citizens, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), journalists,  and entrepreneurs. They are interested in solving social problems in agriculture, education and other areas, using data in their advocacy and journalism.

‘Have you heard of open data? Come and let’s talk about it’

On the 27th of June, the day of the event the organisers were tense as it had started raining and this was our first awareness event with no prize or certificate (like our usual hackathons and trainings). This time it was merely an informal talk about open data and its benefits. Yet, the enthusiasm and participation were impressive, as 56 people braved the rain to attend. Among them, 23% were CSOs and NGOs, 48% entrepreneurs and students, 5% Government representative and 2% journalists. Members of the CSOs Members of the CSO

While 60% of them had heard of Open data, the 40% left had never heard of it. A few of them just walked into the event by pure curiosity: ‘what is this open data is about, is it a project or a tool?’

One of the participants, a well-known regional activist, wondered:
Why all the investment in collection and releasing of data and how does it affect me as an individual or change all the fundamental issues we have in Nigeria?”
As an answer to that question and many others, we took them through the journey of what open data is and its benefits to their various activity using both international and local success stories.  

Mapping their interests and challenges

Participants documenting their interests and challenges.

Participants documenting their interests and challenges.

Of course stick-ons where involved! The participants documented their area of interest, their experience with data and the challenges they are facing working with it. They were generally more interested in how open data can help advocacy activities, improve the educational sector, help farmers and journalism. Many of them were unaware of the places where they could find the data they need, so data sourcing and collection was a major challenge. Another issue was working with data: analysing, visualizing and making use of it.

These findings helped us understand the community better and will help us design more focused trainings and engagements in the future.

Looking forward!

So far so good! Now that we had a successful first strike at breaking the ice, future open data hangouts promise to be better. We are going to address the challenges they shared with us. We grouped the participants following their areas of interest and will continue to share useful resources with them. A Data expedition will be organised in August and an open data party will follow in November. All these events are aimed at building a data literate community in Nigeria.  See more at #dataplusdrinks. Our appreciation goes to OD4D, School of data, Connected development, Sabi hub and all the participants for making this a reality! Meeting the participants
  • Chart made with Piktochart
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‘Where has this been!?’ Open Data Day in Benin, Nigeria.

- May 15, 2015 in community, Data for CSOs, Events, fellowship, hackathon, Nigeria, Open Data

In the city of Benin, located in the Edo State of Nigeria, the 21st of February was a memorable day. At the occasion of the worldwide Open Data Day, the first ever open data hackathon of the city took place, alongside another event called Open Data party . This event, organised by SabiHub, was supported by Open Knowledge, the Ministry of Agriculture and Edo Open Data.  The event focused on the agriculture sector, looking at the challenges and engaging citizens to imagine data driven solutions using the available Agriculture datasets from the state’s open data portal. 50 participants were expected but over 90 participants joined us: Civil society organisations, NGOs, journalism Students, government officials and other open data enthusiasts. As we kickstarted the 6-hour long event, the place was buzzing with excitement. 6 facilitators guided the participants through an adventure about data around the world, wrangling and making sense of numbers. Participants welcomed the knowledge with frowns, questions, excitement, and ‘where has this been’s! ayotraining   Lunch and tea break were welcomed to calm the minds. We then introduced them to a list of challenges the agriculture sector was facing, and asked them to wrangle and create data-driven solutions with those challenges in mind. They broke out into groups and hacked for 3 hours. What was the outcome? Many ideas sprung up, from bridging the information gap between famers and the market, to easier location of agricultural facilities and more. A common challenge in the groups was the lack of data skills to solve the problems idendified! Read more at #ODDBenin15 groups Although Edo state is the first government in Nigeria to launch an open data portal since 2013, low data literacy among potential reusers is still a problem that keeps the initiative from reaching its full potential. The economic benefits of Open data has yet to be harnessed. The Edo State joined forces with organizations like BudgIT, Connected development in spreading the skills necessary to visualize government budget, track government spending and train civil society organisations and journalists while also evangelizing the use of data in schools. With a population of over 170 millions, more has to be done to reach out to CSOs, entrepreneurs, NGOs, journalists. This work will be done thanks to School of Data and other organizations who continuously support the campaign for data literacy, active citizen engagement, fact-driven stories and advocacy, job creation and a lot more. We are not where we want to be, but things have definitely improved in the past years. I’m optimistic that the 2015 School of Data fellowship will drive us steps ahead towards a more literate and informed society. Flattr this!