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Naturalist Datathon: Bogotá (Datatón Naturalista)

- May 15, 2019 in colombia, Open Data Day, open data day 2019, Open Science

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. The Karisma Foundation from Colombia received funding through the mini-grant scheme by the Frictionless Data for Reproducible Research project to organise an event under the Open Science theme. This report was written by Karen Soacha: her biography is included at the bottom of this post.

Open data, naturalists and pizza were part of the Open Data Day celebration in Bogotá

Why and how to improve the quality of open data on biodiversity available in citizen science platforms, were the questions that brought together more than 40 naturalists in the event organized by the Karisma Foundation, the Humboldt Institute and the Biodiversity Information System of Colombia (SiB Colombia) on 2nd of March 2019 as part of the global celebration of Open Data Day. Expert naturalists, amateurs and those interested in citizen science came together to review the open data generated for Bogotá through the City Nature Challenge 2018. The City Nature Challenge is an annual event that invites city-dwellers across the world to hit the streets for two days to capture and catalogue nature which they might be too occupied to notice otherwise.  Using their smartphones, hundreds of people generate thousands of observations of plants, birds, insects and more, which they share through citizen science platforms such as iNaturalist. Generating the data is just the beginning of the process: improving its quality, so that they have the greatest possibility of being used, is the next step. During the Naturalist Datathon we shared guides to facilitate the identification of species, tips to review observations, as well as good practices for users and reviewers to improve the quality of the data. After a morning of collaborative work, the groups shared their learning and engaged in a discussion about the importance of data quality and its potential use in environmental monitoring especially in the context of environmental issues in Bogotá.

1.Introduction and guides for the activity 2. Roles of the participants 4. Organization of work groups 5. Collaborative review of observations 6. Discussion 7. Naturalist Kit for all the participants

The Datatón Naturalista left us with a set of outputs, specific lessons learned and a set of good practices for the participants, the organizers and the community of naturalists and open data. To begin with, this activity contributed to increasing the community of experts who actively participate in the “curation” of observations published in Naturalista Colombia, which is necessary in order to improve the quality of the data. At the end of the datathon, the quality of the data the participants worked on was vastly improved — so much so that the data will be integrated into the SiB Colombia (the official national continental biodiversity portal). As a result of this datathon, more Colombians were encouraged to participate as urban/rural naturalists. Participants also shared good practices for taking photographs and collecting data necessary for observations to be useful for multiple uses, they mentioned the importance of use licenses for facilitating the reuse and  sharing the information (Creative Commons). They also gave recommendations for the 2019 City Nature Challenge (CNC), such as the need for guides in easy-to-consume formats (such as short videos) that ought to be shared in advance of the CNC.  This guide should go beyond basic information on data capturing, and should include good practices, as well as ethical recommendations for the creators, curators, and users of information. One of the challenges that the participants highlighted was the need to recognize and integrate citizen science data as a source of information for the environmental management of the city. For the organizers, the datatón turned out to be an effective means to create conversation, connections and reflections on the how and for what of the open data, at the same time that allowed to strengthen capacities and contribute with open data of quality. Finally, this event showed that more and more citizens are becoming involved in citizen science, actively contributing to our knowledge of biodiversity, and are working collaboratively to further understand their environment and to generate information that is useful for decision-making. Therefore, it is necessary to continue promoting spaces that allow community-building and facilitate networking around open science and citizen science.  For that reason, we in Bogotá are looking forward to the next Open Data Day.   Biography Karen Soacha is interested in the connection between knowledge management, citizen science, governance and nature. She’s been working with environmental organizations for over 10 years, in the management of data and information networks, especially with open data on biodiversity. She is convinced that science is a way to build dialogue within the society. She is also a teacher, an amateur dancer, and an apprentice naturalist.  

Open Data Day 2019: a joint report by Open Knowledge Colombia and Datasketch

- April 3, 2019 in colombia, gender, Open Contracting, Open Data Day, open data day 2019

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. This is a joint report produced by Open Knowledge Colombia and Datasketch, who received funding through the mini-grant scheme by Hivos / Open Contracting Partnership and the Latin American Initiative for Open Data (ILDA) to organise an event under the Equal development and Tracking Public Money themes.  It has been written by Verónica Toro (Datasketch) and Luis M. Vilches-Blázquez (Open Knowledge Colombia).


In Bogota (Colombia), we developed an event, called IgualData, focused on demonstrating and raising awareness on salary differences among genders in Colombia where different actors were involved. IgualData was performed in conjunction with the public (governmental) sector and civil society. Thus, this event was organized by the National Planning Department, National Secretary for Transparency, Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Colombia Buys Efficient, Datasketch, Open Contracting Partnership, Open Knowledge Colombia, Global Integrity, and the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University. More than 60 people were participating in our event with different roles (citizens, academia, social actors, governmental bodies, etc.), which had active discussions and interactions on the importance of open data in promoting gender equality and how these one help discovering the gender pay gap in the Colombian context.


The IgualData event was based on three main topics: i) gender pay gap, ii) anti-corruption and public policy with a gender approach, and iii) women participation in public purchases. These topics were useful for opening a debate on the rights and inequalities of women in the Colombian society through Open Data. Additionally, we added some open questions related to open data and gender issues, such as: How can we use open data as a tool to promote gender equality? What can be done to ensure that women, gays, lesbians, trans, bisexuals, and queers have power and benefit from the state budget? How to achieve a gender approach in the creation of public policies related to access to information?
This scenario allowed us sought to answer these questions since there are little or no reports on the budget and follow-up with the gender approach of open data, it can not be tracked or analyzed, the public budget has promoted gender equality in Colombia. Therefore, the main challenge IgualData aimed to have a global vision about the status of open data on gender issues and to discover the existing gender pay gap in Colombia through open contracts data associated with governmental bodies.


Open Knowledge Colombia and Datasketch in conjunction with National Planning Department, National Secretary for Transparency, Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Colombia Buys Efficient, Open Contracting Partnership, Global Integrity, and Jorge Tadeo Lozano University prepared a complete agenda for our event (IgualData). Thus, the day began with an expert panel that included women from civil society, private sector, and academia. The objective was to discuss how the governmental bodies produce the data and how they have a bias and discrimination from the forms and surveys. The allegations of manipulation of data suffered by some of these bodies and the importance of institutional strengthening with a gender and intersectional approach were put on the table since not all women are equal, nor all homosexual, bisexual or transgender people. On the other hand, we had different interventions and exhibitions from various actors associated with the public, private and societal sectors. They showed some data analysis related to official and open data from governmental bodies. Moreover, we created three working groups focused on three main topics of IgualData, where participants discussed challenges, shortcomings, and opportunities:
  • Gender pay gap. This group discussed the niches affected by the lack of data with a gender focus. Besides, they reviewed the difference between the hours’ amount worked by men and women and the availability of data.
  • Anti-corruption and public policy with a gender approach. This table discussed the current status of the General System of Anti-corruption in Colombia and dealt also with the necessity to include a gender approach and strength the available data.
  • Participation of women in public purchase. This working group put on the table the points on the data state, where highlighted the fact that the majority of data are in pdf format, which makes more difficult the massive analysis.
Finally, we presented a mosaic that was honored in tribute to Rosie the Riveter. This work was built with data on the wage gap and violence against women, figures from reports such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the International Labor Organization, also, included photographs of feminist, scientific, academic women and writers.

Conclusions and Lessons Learnt

We obtained different conclusions and lessons learned in the context of IgualData. Next, we list some of the main ones: With respect to (open) data and interoperability status:
  • Currently, there is no gender distinction in the National public contracting platform, called SECOP.
  • Most information related to gender issues is available in PDF format.
  • Interoperability between platforms is needed (e.g.: SECOP and SIGEP to extract data such as gender, training, experience, geographical distribution, marital status, among others).
Regarding monitoring of gender issues:
  • It is important to monitor and measure how the resources of national investment projects are executed in the context of gender issues.
  • It is necessary to set a connection between gender pay gap information and training and experience factors.
  • It is necessary to include spaces to select gender issues in the SECOP platform and characteristics of companies in order to evaluate the participation of women in govermental public contracts.

Open Data Day 2018 at iWatch Africa and Open Knowledge Colombia

- April 9, 2018 in colombia, Follow the Money, ghana, Open Data Day, open data day 2018

Authors:  Gideon Sarpong, iWatch Africa and Luis M. Vliches-Blazquez, Open Knowledge Colombia This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2018. On Saturday 3 March, groups from around the world organised over 400 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. Within the key area “Follow the money”, 17 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos and Open Knowledge International.


iWatch Africa in Ghana sought to create awareness and train student journalists on the use of data journalism tools and new media to track government budget. Fifty student journalists were selected across the country to mark the event in Ghana. The iWatch Data Day event focused on four main themes:
  • Introduction theme- The importance of open data in deepening democracy in Ghana
  • Effective use of data journalism tools to track government budget in Ghana
  • Training on how to use data visualization to tell effective stories
  • Open Forum- How can data journalists harness the power of the new media to promote transparency and accountability in Africa.
In Bogota (Colombia), we developed a hackathon, called #AlimenData, focused on following and visualizing public money associated with School Feeding National Program of Colombia through a co-creation process where different actors were involved.  #AlimenData was performed in conjunction with public sector and civil society. In this hackathon participated the National Secretary for Transparency, Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Open Contracting Partnership, and Open Knowledge Colombia. Thirty-six teams were registered, from which ten multi-disciplinary and high-motivated groups (composed of twenty-seven participants in total) were selected across the country in order to develop their ideas. These teams were composed of different actors (citizens, academia, social actors, local governments, etc.).  


The major obstacle to the Open Data campaign in Ghana has to do with government’s reluctance to pass the Right to Information Bill after 17 years of active campaign. Among the major challenges identified by iWatch Africa has to do with access to relevant accounts and financial reports. In some cases, accurate expenditure/transfer records do not exist at all. Here CSOs continue to play an important role putting pressure on the government in collaboration with the media, local level service providers and/or users and the public. The #AlimenData event was revolved around two main challenges for hacking the School Feeding National Program of Colombia. On the one hand, how to identify inconsistencies and/or chances within this National Program in order to follow and optimize public funding? And, on the other hand, how to encourage interest of citizens, researchers and media for taking part in the control process of this National Program? In order to encourage these challenges, we suggested different open data related to School Feeding National Program, from which some datasets were proposed as mandatory ones (datasets related to public funding), and other optional ones were suggested (e.g.: datasets associated with population, education, food prices, etc.). Next, we list several of the suggested open data:


iWatch Africa marked the Open Data Day event in Accra by officially issuing a call for participation with specific emphasis on student journalists. Our focus was to create awareness and train student journalists on the use of data journalism tools and new media to track government budget. Fifty student journalists were selected across the country to mark the event in Ghana. Gideon Sarpong, iWatch Africa’s Director of Policy and Content Analysis who delivered a speech on the main theme emphasized the importance of open data in addressing the challenge of corruption in Africa. “Open data in governance is critical to addressing corruption in Ghana as well as developing effective policy reforms and an efficient public sector. It is in the interest of public institutions to join in the open data initiative and actively take steps to open up,” Mr. Sarpong stated. Resource person, Justice Kumordzi addressed the theme; Effective use of Data Journalism tools to effectively track government expenditure/budget in Ghana. Mr, Kumordzi focused on the vital role of data journalism in detecting bottlenecks, inefficiencies and/or corruption in the transfer of public goods and resources. He also noted that open data is a key tool for the government and civil society organizations (CSO) to guard against corruption and work towards ensuring a transparent, accountable and effective public financial management. Banini Kwasi Phillip, Communication Director of iWatch Africa also addressed the theme; The use of Data visualization to tell effective stories. Mr. Phillip demonstrated how various data visualisation tool and systems play an important role to enrich one’s story. His presentation focused on the different methods of data presentation emphasizing the text, graphic and tabular forms of presentations. After a practical session of his presentation, participants held on open forum on the theme; How can data journalists harness the power of the new media to promote transparency and accountability in Africa. Open Knowledge Colombia in conjunction with National Secretary for Transparency, Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies, and Open Contracting Partnership prepared a complete agenda for the #AlimenData hackathon. In this scenario, we had the participation of different mentors, which talked about the School Feeding National Program, open data, data cleansing, software developing, visualization, and storytelling. These talks, which were complementary with hacking sessions, helped knowing more deeply our context (School Feeding National Program), the selected datasets, and various techniques and tools. Furthermore, our collaborators accompanied and advised to each group when during all the hackathon. Besides these talks, the participants of the hackathon had a chance to participate in a rehearsal session, where each group presented their preliminary proposals during 3 minutes. In this session different teams received feedback from mentors and organizers. Furthermore, different teams also received feedback from members of other teams, performing a collective co-creation process. This process allowed mutual enriching, since teams exchanged useful and multi-disciplinary viewpoints. The point of convergence between the two organisation’s methodology had to do with data visualisation as an important tool to tell effective stories. While #AlimenData hackathon focused on software developing, visualization, iWatch Africa also focused on practical sessions on three key forms of data visualisation, which include; text, graphic and tabular forms of presentations.


Participants during the open forum resolved to focus on four key themes in 2018 as part of their effort to drive the open data conversation to make meaningful impact in policy making decisions in Ghana. These include;
  1. Critical focus on the passage of the Right to information bill
  2. Procurement- Focus on open data regarding procurement contracts in Ghana
  3. Focus on employment data in Ghana
  4. Open government data
The 2018 International Open Data Day conference organized by iWatch Africa is also part of the larger goal of launching the iProcurement Watch initiative mid-2018. On the other hand, different teams addressed the two main challenges that we proposed in the #AlimenData hackathon. Thus, teams presented various proposals at the end of the Open Data Day. Next we highlight some ones:
  • An application for monitoring and reporting dietary and nutritional supplements.
  • A platform for monitoring the delivery of food portions.
  • A web platform for integrating different datasets related to School Feeding National Program of Colombia.
  • A tool for visualizing characteristics associated with contracting process of this National Program.
The organizers of this hackathon chose one project as winner. The selected one proposed an email service for communicating to parents the menu of each week using open data and blockchain technology. This proposal allows that parents can monitor and report the existing differences between the contracted menu in the context of School Feeding National Program of Colombia and the menu received for their children (students). The work on the projects that has been started during Open Data Day will continue, since we are working with different Governmental bodies in Colombia in order to develop some of these prototypes and to improve School Feeding National Program of Colombia.