Open Knowledge International is a member of Open Data for Development (OD4D), a global network of leaders in the open data community, working together to develop open data solutions around the world. In this blog, Nana Baah Gyan talks about his work carrying out an embedded data fellowship with Advocates for Community Alternatives (ACA) in Ghana as part of the OD4D programme. Generally, information needs often require different strategies in order to meet them satisfactorily. And this is even more the case in circumstances where technology know-how needs to be taught and gradually introduced to fit a particular setting of would-be technology adopters. Often, this case presents its own unique and (quite frankly speaking) exciting challenges for technology enthusiasts. It opens up otherwise largely unexplored avenues for technology innovation and learning in new communities. And this is exactly how I thought of it when I was first invited by Open Knowledge International (OKI) to be part of the Open Data for Development (OD4D) embedded fellowship working with Advocates for Community Alternatives (ACA) in Ghana for three months. Registered as an non governmental organisation (NGO), ACA has as its main task, among other things, to help — through trainings and frequent community engagements — rural communities to independently explore for the themselves possible alternative livelihoods, especially in situations where these communities are threatened by big mining firms. In Ghana, the story has not always been a pleasant one whenever some such firm shows up at the door of the community with heavy machinery and equipments ready to mine. Often, mining companies have ended up destroying livelihoods by taking away farmlands, polluting drinking waters and significantly altering the way of life of people in the these communities for the worse. However, for some four villages in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana this was actively stood against by members of the communities, and their resolve to prevent one such mining giant in their communities presented, by itself, a fascinating story which attracted the engagement of ACA.
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Open Knowledge International is a member of OD4D, a global network of leaders in the open data community, working together to develop open data solutions around the world. Here, Simeon Oriko talks about his work carrying out an embedded data fellowship with Oxfam in Kenya as part of the Open Data for Development (OD4D) programme. For years, traditional non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Kenya have focused on health, humanitarian and aid initiatives. Most still engage in this type of work but with an increasing shift toward adopting modern approaches that respect historical experience and consider future emerging constraints. Modern approaches such as social innovation models and using solution-based processes such as design thinking are increasingly commonplace in NGOs. Open data practices are also being adopted by some NGOs with the aim of mobilizing all their resources for transformative change.
Image credit: Systems thinking about the society by Marcel Douwe Dekker CC BY 3.0As part of an ongoing embedded data fellowship programme with Open Knowledge International, I had the opportunity late last year to meet with some Oxfam in Kenya staff and talk to them about their priorities and their organizational shift towards ‘influencing’ and ‘advocacy’. We spoke about the strategies they would like to adopt to make this shift happen. These meetings helped identify key areas of need and opportunities for the organization to adopt open data practices. I learned from my conversations that the organization collects and uses data but most of it is not open. It was also made plain that staff faced significant challenges in their data workflow; most lack the skills or technical know-how to work with data and often heavily rely on the Monitoring and Evaluation team to handle data analysis and other key processes. Oxfam in Kenya expressed interest in building their knowledge and capacity to work with data. One tangible outcome from my conversations was to hold workshops to sensitize them on the value of open data. We held two workshops as a result: one with Oxfam in Kenya staff and the other with some of their partner organizations.
Open Data Workshop with Oxfam in Kenya Partners – January 26th, 2017On January 13th 2017, Oxfam in Kenya hosted me for a 3-hour workshop on open data. The training focused on 2 things:
- a basic understanding of what open data is and what it does, and,
- helping them understand and map out its potential strategic value in their organization.
The training emphasized 3 key characteristics of open data:
- Availability and Access: We spoke on the need for data to be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost. We emphasized the need for data to be available in a convenient and modifiable form. It became clear that providing an easy way to download data over the internet was the preferred way of making data easily available and accessible.
- Reuse and Redistribution: The training emphasized the use of licenses or terms under which the data must be provided. Licenses and terms that permit reuse and redistribution including the intermixing with other datasets were recommended. We briefly explored using Creative Commons Licenses to license the data openly.
- Universal Participation: The idea that anyone must be able to use, re-use and redistribute the data, was emphasized as important practice in both principle and practice.