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Open Research in the Philippines: The Lessons and Challenges

Czarina Medina-Guce - April 24, 2018 in Open Data Day, open data day 2018, open research data, Open Science, philippines

Authors: Czarina Medina-Guce and Marco Angelo S. Zaplan This blog 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. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The events in this blog were supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open Research Data theme. Pioneering discussions on open research in a country where data management is still in the works can be rewarding yet challenging. In celebration of global Open Data Day,  the Institute for Leadership, Empowerment, and Democracy (iLEAD) and Datos.PH initiated small group discussions on March 3, 2018. The organizations, while taking different tracks, have fielded the same question, how can we make data and literature more open for the research community? Gathering over twenty representatives from the academe, government agencies, civil society organizations, and research institutions, iLEAD embarked on a stocktaking exercise to assess the current research landscape in the Philippines. Datos.PH, on the other hand, organized a data hackathon with researchers and students, with the aim of making national datasets more disaggregated and gendered to enable analysis of datasets at the regional level.

The iLEAD Team with the participants of the Open Data Day: Roundtable on Open Research in the Philippines last March 3, 2018 in Quezon City, Philippines

Differences and Similarities

Both events steered towards the goal of widening the access of the citizens, knowledge producers, advocates, and other infomediaries to data, research materials, and literature. For this, two approaches were used. Datos.PH’s hackathon involved time running and analyzing datasets while iLEAD’s event involved discussions with resource speakers from government and university libraries. Datos.PH’s hackathon brought together a small and focused group of technical data users, in this case, Statistics major students, to crunch data, disaggregate national datasets, and bring out gender data analysis into the open. The goal of each session was to disaggregate datasets by region and sex of the respondents. Once disaggregated, breakout groups presented initial statistical analysis of disaggregated datasets. iLEAD’s Roundtable Discussion engaged data users and suppliers to delve into the opportunities and barriers on open research. While the two initiatives produced different outputs, both have concluded that the current data landscape is still a long stretch from fully reaching various  stakeholders.

A student crunching data during Datos.PH’s ODD event in Quezon City, Philippines

Lessons Learned

iLEAD was able to surface issues and concerns in opening up research from its initiated exercise. While there are significant strides in opening government data from the previous years, there are still challenges in making the programs genuinely usable and relevant for different publics. On the side of the government, the biggest gap still lies on the issue of legal frameworks in information sharing and accessing such as the long-standing contentions on the country’s Data Privacy Act and the absence of a Freedom of Information (FOI) law that will expand the scope of government information disclosure to subnational levels and other branches of the government. There is also low use of data made available for the public, too, which suggests a disconnect between the data that are being disclosed and the data needs and demands of the people. In the academic contexts, similar issues surfaced as existing practices in opening research products (books, journals, and other reports) are bound by Intellectual Property (IP) policies. Strict academic sharing practices coupled with inhibitions from some contributors hinder open information exchange among researchers, advocates, and other knowledge producers. There are also financial barriers. Academic institutions have to pay for steep collation and subscription fees in acquiring access to academic journals and databases. Digitizing and improving information systems of libraries also incur significant costs, which many schools usually find difficult to finance if they do not have the resources. Meanwhile, Datos.PH’s workshop sessions worked on national datasets including the family income and expenditure survey (FIES), labor force survey (LFS), and annual poverty indicators survey (APIS).  It was able to develop a simple manual, which provides users ways to use the disaggregated data as a means to sustain the practice long after the workshop. The manual includes analysis and questions local policymakers, researchers, and advocates may ask using the data. By the end of the data dive, Datos.PH managed to put together a draft manual and fifty-four disaggregated datasets coming from three datasets. Datos.PH’s event learnings boils down to this: there is so much data available yet even the most technical users have little access to it. Some did not even have idea about the existing datasets the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) produces. This is surprising given that primary users of datasets are the statisticians themselves. Moving forward, demand for these datasets needs to catch up. This is to provide more cases to induce disclosures and production of data for public use. There is so much to be done for open research. While there are financial, legal, and technical barriers that need to be overcome, these discussions are a step towards building a community that shares the same advocacy of making data in the Philippines accessible and usable for all Filipinos.   The Institute for Leadership, Empowerment, and Democracy (iLEAD) (http://www.ilead.ph)  is a non-stock, non-profit think tank consultancy and resource center that focuses on strategic policy work to strengthen democratic institutions. Datos.PH is a nonprofit organization working towards building capacities of stakeholders and advocating for data for evidence-based public policies at the local level. Both are based in the Philippines.

Celebrating Open Data Day 2018 in Nigeria

Olusegun Elemo - April 23, 2018 in Follow the Money, Nigeria, Open Data Day, open data day 2018

This blog 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. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The events in this blog were supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Follow the Money theme. The concept of open data is growing rapidly across borders and Nigeria isn’t left out of this budding movement. Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI) and OrderPaper Nigeria joined the global open data community to celebrate Open Data Day 2018 and further contributed to the discourse on why certain data should be publicly available in both human and machine-readable formats and accessible without any constraint whatsoever. PLSI’s local event which held at LPI_Hub located within University of Ibadan – Nigeria’s premiere University focused on promoting use of open data in tracking audited funds for developmental projects in Nigerian local communities to foster public accountability and improved service delivery. Likewise, OrderPaper which had developed a Mobile App “ConsTrack” to track constituency projects equally convened a townhall to celebrate the day. Its event was however targeted at training community youths and raising them to become FollowtheFunds Grassroots Champions (FGCs) to track, monitor and report on constituency projects undertaken by members of the National Assembly representing the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

Who Attended?

PLSI assembled various stakeholders in the open data community including data analysts, developers, creative artists, University students, Corps members and other lovers of data. 26 participants attended the event with 56% being males and 44% females. PLSI’s mentor and partner organization – BudgIT was equally represented at the event by two members of its research team – Olaniyi Olaleye and Thaddeus Jolaiyemi. Olaniyi delivered a stunning presentation on “Budget Access – Contracting and Audit” to take participants through the transit mechanism of data from budget to contracting and audit. PLSI’s Executive Director – Olusegun Elemo equally presented on the “Concept of Open Data” as well as a “Walk-Through session on Citizen Participatory Audit”. Also, OrderPaper had 14 participants drawn from various area councils that make up the FCT who were trained on the use of data and technology to interrogate constituency projects in a bid to ensure inclusiveness, transparency and accountability. It is instructive that before the event, 78.5% of the participants rated government presence (generally) in terms of infrastructure and service delivery in their respective communities below average. Specific to constituency projects, many of the participants said implementation was “abysmal” as several communities like Igu in Bwari Area council was revealed to be without a good road.

Participants at the OrderPaper Nigeria Open Data Day 2018

Breakout Session

PLSI organized a datathon exercise for participants to relate directly with audit data of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Three groups worked to analyze and mine raw data as contained in 2013, 2014 and 2015 audit reports. The groups selected three thematic areas to include water, education and health. All three groups went on to visualize their data using creative tools and subsequently presented their findings to the larger audience.

Lessons and Challenges

Despite the rapid growth of Open Data concept in Nigeria, several individuals including key stakeholders in the Open Data space learnt about use of open data and its impact on community development for the first time at the two events. This goes to show the need to continually grow the open data community in Nigeria. PLSI had firsthand view of how unfamiliar participants felt to the Open Data space. Even though 15% were conversant with open data concept, 85% had no clue whatsoever on the importance and usage of Open Data or audit data to track public spending and demand accountability. Many were amazed in the end at how simple the subject is to understand and how critical Open Data is to improving service delivery in Nigeria. Participants were equally introduced to Value for Money – a platform to track, report and act on audited developmental projects abandoned, unexecuted or poorly executed in their communities. Similarly, at OrderPaper’s event, only 78% of the participants knew who the Senator for the FCT is while 72% knew their House of Representatives members. In a shocking revelation, none of the participants knew the amount of money budgeted for constituency projects in two federal constituencies and senatorial districts that make up the territory. It was therefore a great gain that the town hall achieved the impartation of knowledge about who the representatives are; how much was budgeted for constituency projects in the 2016 national appropriation act; and how much was released by government for the execution of the projects. These findings greatly stimulated the interest of the participants in engaging the ConsTrack App to track and report on projects.

Moving Forward

To sustain a growing community of Open Data users, PLSI at its event commissioned three persons as U.I. Open Data Community Leaders who will continue to work very closely with the organization to promote Open Data usage in the University. PLSI and OrderPaper are grateful to Open Knowledge International and Hivos Global for providing the mini-grant that made the two events a success.

Our Open Data Day 2018 @ hack.institute

Jan Daniel Wiedersporn - April 18, 2018 in germany, hackathon, Open Data Day, open data day 2018

This blog has been reposted from Medium This blog 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. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The event in this blog was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Equal Development theme.

The Open Data Day 2018 hackathon at our place near Barbarossa Platz began in the morning (at 9am) and went all day long until 8pm in the evening. The different participants (or hackathletes as we like to call them) came from all parts of Cologne and even from other cities throughout the province of Nordrhein-Westfalen.

The topic of our hackathon was (as intended) air pollution and nitrogen dioxide pollution in particular. All of which can’t be talked about enough since the pollution is invisible but its impact on our health is not. And especially in the inner city of Cologne there is lots and lots of air pollution.

We had breakfast together and got each other to know while drinking a coffee or two. So we had time to appreciate our similarities and differences before we started working. We had about thirty participants pitching around ten ideas, which ultimately formed themselves into three groups, each of them with their own goal based on the best pitches made.

The three different projects that were realized during our hackathon for Open Data Day 2018 were, as already stated, all about nitrogen dioxide pollution in Cologne and all of the hacks worked with (or compared) the different figures from the two main sources that monitor air pollution in our area. The first one being the City of Cologne, the second one being Open Air Cologne, a joint venture by OKlab Cologne, Everykey, the Cologne University of Applied Sciences and again the City of Cologne themselves.

Our hackers went on to built python scripts, parsers and APIs to transmit data, transform data, to compare the measurements between the two data sources and to visualize them and make the data machine-readable for other users and visualizations.

Concerning the accomplishment of goals we are happy to announce that one project was completely finished and the two runner ups were almost finished and in a working condition. Also the goal of connecting people and keeping them connected was accomplished since some of the participants are still in email communication concerning their projects.

Our community did a great deal of furthering the cause. We had a principal direction where we wanted to go but the projects/hacks were all planned and formed by the participants themselves. Also the two hour long Barcamp that was held helped a lot in giving the pitches shape and furthering the scope of each project.

Still through feedback we got the insight that it might have been even more productive to be a little bit more strict in guiding the participating hackers and maybe look even closer at their individual strengths to everyone can take part in the project in the most fitting way. We would also like to try to use our next Hackathons as a thematic bridge between the last and the following Open Data Day. We have a LoRaWAN Hackathon coming up where the projects from our Open Data Day Hackathon could be expanded on.

Regarding the comparison to the Open Data Day 2018 Hackathon held by the Women Economic and Leadership Initiative (our tandem organisation for the ODD18) we were able to find several similarities between our events aside from being about open data. The most outstanding similarity being the purpose to connect open data enthusiasts with each other, while on the other hand the most obvious difference is that they targeted a slightly different group of participants since they were focusing on female participants while our Hackathlon was gender unspecific.

We had a great Open Data Day 2018 and enjoyed it very much to share the day with the Open Data community. We are happily looking forward to have a great Open Data Day again in 2019.

We are also very grateful for our great sponsors and partners:
pro.volutionEmbersRailsloveTDWIKöln Express and Kölner Stadtanzeiger and especially the City of Cologne.

Thank you very much again.

Hack on!

Women Economic and Leadership Transformation Initiative Open Data Event 2018

Deborah Kingboye - April 18, 2018 in development, Nigeria, Open Data Day, open data day 2018

This blog has been reposted from debwritesblog This blog 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. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The event in this blog was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Equal Development theme. We are living in times where it seems very obvious to want certain situations. One of them is the presence of women in all professional fields. Who would not agree that such representation should be fair and equal with respect to the opposite gender? Perhaps nobody would oppose it in public, but the reality is different. Women are not balanced in all professional environments, and more and more cases are reported that reflect the way they are rewarded for their work is not fair. When it comes to open data it is a different situation. It does not take gender into consideration: instead it serves as an empowerment tool for any individual who is interested in making use of it.

Open data

Open data – data anyone can access, use or share – is transformative infrastructure for a digital economy that is consistently innovating and bringing the benefits of the Web to society. It often goes hand in hand with open working cultures and open business practices. While this culture lends itself to diversity, it is important that those who are involved in open data make sure it addresses everyone’s needs. It is therefore encouraging to see that open data initiatives in African countries are being led by women. From heading up technical teams to leading stakeholder engagement strategies, these leaders are driving open data across the continent.

The Women Economic and Leadership Transformation Initiative (WELTI) in partnership with The Hewlett Foundation, Open Knowledge International and SPARC organized a day event to celebrate Open data day 2018 on the 3rd March 2018 at the Fountain Heights SecondarySchool, Surulere where the speakers spoke on “Understanding gender inequality  through open  data /knowledge”  and “The role of data and business in a woman’s world” respectively to 70 young women, young men and some teachers.

Key message shared

One of the female speakers noted that the proportion of women using the internet is 12% and that the percentage of women who have access to the internet is 50% lesser to that of the men. In her opinion, advocacy on gender inequality pertaining to the usage of data can be achieved through: 1. Proper orientation. People need to be enlightened on the use of data and it’s far reaching impact in the society. 2. E-learning centers should increase so that more women can gain access to the internet especially in rural areas.

It was also established that data can go a long way in helping one’s business through the use of the internet. She stressed that the internet has made business transactions easier and better unlike the olden days. The following can be accessed through the use of data:

1. Information gathering and study

With data, one can gather meaningful information about a particular business she is into.

2. Globalization

The spread of one’s business to far and near locations without the need of physical contact or a business card which allows your brand to be known abroad.

3. Online Courses

It aids easy flow in education especially for those who don’t have the time to attend physical classes or lecture. Through the internet and the use of data ultimately, one can study professional courses and be awarded a degree.

4. Payment gateway and online transactions

It aids easy flow of payments for service rendered, unlike the olden days where you have to go pay physically to the owner no matter the distance but with the use of data, one can carry out a stress free transaction even without knowing the person she is transacting with.

We had a pre and post evaluation to get a sense of what the young women felt about open data. The results showed that most women who use data do not necessarily check for topics regarding women or check for information that has to do with making businesses thrive. Hence, WELTI would keep advocating for women to leverage technology especially through her flagship program The Business Meets Technology, as this is another way of them getting access to data that would be beneficial to them. WELTI believes that with proper access to data, women are better able to understand what their rights are and work towards being the best they can be.  

About WELTI

Women Economic and Leadership Transformation Initiative WELTI (Women Economic and Leadership Transformation Initiative) is a three year old registered not for profit organization in Nigeria headquartered in Lagos focused on women. We reach out to young women between ages 14-30 on our three pillars of Leadership, Economic and Health (HIV/AIDS and Female general health awareness). The intention is to enable the young women, through our programs, to be CORE (Competent, Organizationally skilled, Responsible and Ethical) women. The women are taught to own their craft and be leaders in their own right irrespective of their gender. We are well aware that we are in a society where gender parity is yet to be achieved so we are doing the best we can as an organization to sensitize the younger women because we are positive that the time is now and change is imminent. In these few years of her existence, WELTI has through her programs, been able to impact, engage, encourage, equip and empower over 1500 young women to get involved in programs that would help them, hone their skills, own their craft and be leaders in their own right. This we have been able to do by working closely with about 50 volunteers. Kindly follow us on TwitterInstagram and Facebook. For more Information, also visit our website WELTI.

Open mapping in Côte d’Ivoire, Mongolia and the USA

Delia Walker-Jones - April 16, 2018 in Côte d'Ivoire, mongolia, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, Open Mapping, USA

Authors: Delia Walker-Jones (OSM-Colorado) and Kanigui Nara (SCODA Côte d’Ivoire) This blog 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. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The events in this blog were supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open Mapping theme.

School of Data (SCODA) Côte d’Ivoire

During the Open Data Day in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), we gathered 13 activists working on extractive industries. Firstly we presented the 2015 EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) report for Côte d’Ivoire. This report contains mainly the payments of extractives industries to Côte d’Ivoire government. The 2015 EITI report has also published the geographical coordinates of operating licenses in the country. We started by showing to the participants where they can find these data in the report. And the first task was to show how these data were organised and what were their meanings. We  explained that for each operating license, there were geographical coordinates of delimitation points of the operating field. We also discussed about the definition of longitude and latitude and the encoding system (degree minutes seconds) that has been used in the report. After that, participants were divided into groups of two persons. And, we asked to each of these groups to use Tabula in order to extract the geographical coordinates of the operating license of Societe des Mines d’Ity. This firm is operating in the west part of the country. One of the important challenges of the day was to clean up the extracted data. We had already prepared a step by step cleaning spreadsheet. We started by introducing the different functions that have been used for cleaning. Functions like “LENGTH”; “FIND & REPLACE” ; “MID” and “SUBSTITUTE” were presented before going through the spreadsheet. Once data were cleaned up and formatted by name of firm, delimitation points, longitude and latitude; we converted longitude and latitude into Degree Decimal format. Then, we made an introduction to Umap and each group created a map project and started to add the delimating points of the operating license of Societe des Mines d’Ity. In terms of lessons, this event was an opportunity for participants to understand geographical coordinates and strengthen their skills in terms of data extraction and data cleaning. We recommend to make sure that participants have a clear understanding of geographical coordinates before starting a mapping event. The next step for us is to design specific training in mapping and to organise mapathon events using OSM.

Open Street Maps (OSM) Colorado: Ger Community Mapping Center mapathon

In Denver, Colorado during Open Data Day, with the assistance of a grant from Mapbox, Open Street Maps Colorado hosted a mapathon for the Ger Community Mapping Center, a non-profit based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The weather outside was warm and sunny, but the mapathon nonetheless lured a number of GIS and geography professionals and students into a local university conference room for an afternoon spent on Open Street Maps, digitizing aerial imagery from Mongolia. We opened the event with a couple presentations about Open Data Day and about the region of Mongolia the Ger Community Mapping Center elected to map. The Arkhangai province, the selected region, is a mostly rural province about 300 miles west of the capital Ulaanbaatar. We saw from the aerial imagery in Open Street Maps the incredibly varied geography of the Arkhangai province, from tiny, barely visible track roads and vast forests in some areas to densely populated residential neighborhoods filled with dozens of gers (yurts) in other areas. As the participants slowly digitized the many features, this varied geography sparked conversations about how to classify smaller roads barely visible in the grass, and where to delineate residential areas in a consistent manner. Conversations moved towards the topic of open data, as well. Questions about how to determine standards for open data, and the ethical ramifications of privacy and open spatial data through aerial imagery came to light. In the case of this mapathon, we discussed gers (yurts) and the importance of including gers in spatial data. While in many Western contexts buildings like gers would not be included, and, in fact, have not warranted a separate OSM tag, gers seemed necessary to incorporate within the cultural context of Mongolia–even inside the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, many Mongolians still live in Gers. Gers, therefore, are not only a feature that belongs on a map of Mongolia, but are also an essential feature to assessing population and the movements of the estimated 30% of Mongolians who are still nomadic or semi-nomadic. By discussing topics like this, we hoped to bring to light a part of the world not many people living in Denver, Colorado know about, and to provide a substantial amount of new shapefiles and data for the Ger Community Mapping Center to use in future projects.  

Open Data Day in Tanzania and Serbia: using open data to educate, inform and create stories

Rehema Mtandika - April 13, 2018 in development, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, Open Mapping, serbia, tanzania

Authors: Rehema Mtandika (She Codes for change) and Katarina Kosmina (SEE ICT) – their biographies can be found below this post. This blog 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. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The events in this blog were supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Equal Development and Open Mapping themes.

How we approached data

She Codes for Change trained 27 young girls aged 15-19 from Secondary Schools in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on the basic concepts of data visualization, Scratch and photography. We guided them to work on groups to identify social challenges and then use open data to create data-driven animation videos stories to educate the society on the challenge. Our aim was to inspire young girls to understand the concept of open data and innovation, and how to apply them to transform their imaginations into visual products, altogether as the mechanism to solve their societal problems. In the end, each group consisting of 5 members was guided to create their datasets, and worked upon their interested social challenge. The issues worked upon were violence against children, early marriages, gender based violence, school dropout and HIV/AIDS among adolescents. The final products were presented, and then uploaded on the She Codes for Change YouTube channel.

She Codes for Change Team with participants during Open Data Day

SEEICT/Startit is an NGO which has eight Startit centers across Serbia, with the aim of educating, empowering and connecting youth and the tech community in the country. Our plan to organize open mapping events in two smaller towns in Serbia got hindered by a lack of demand and local capacity for this type of activities. Instead, with the help of UNDP in Serbia, we managed to organize a Datathon in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, where teams worked with four mentors on data visualization projects using open datasets. The winning team mapped all elementary and high schools across Belgrade using a dataset from the Ministry of Education. They then scraped data about the locations of betting shops, given that Serbian law forbids betting shops to be closer than 200 meters from schools. This project resulted in a map of Belgrade showing over 70 betting shops which are breaking the law. Additionally, the other three teams also created visualizations which involved: optimizing the placement of police patrols and emergency vehicles for better response to car accidents, mapping bad driving habits across time and municipalities of Serbia, and showing the connectedness of public transportation in Belgrade.

Overcoming obstacles

Since the She Codes for Change proposal was not selected in the first round by the Open Data Team, our team had work on last minute preparations in order to have the logistics in place including sending invitation to schools, push and make follow up with their administrations for the timely permissions for students to attend. Given that it was Startit’s first time organizing a Datathon and that we decided to make it a 12 hour challenge focused on visualization, we had no idea what could come out of it. In fact, we doubted if we would end up with even 1-2 working visualizations. Given the pilot/experimental nature of this event, plus the short time frame we had to plan and execute it, we struggled with social media promotion, using personal contacts and finding other ways to animate the Serbian IT community to join this endeavour. In addition, we knew that the datasets published by the government are often messy, incomplete, and inconsistent. Hence, there was a legitimate fear that the teams would end up spending most of those 12 hours cleaning data instead of analyzing and visualizing it. Fortunately, we had four fantastic mentors and the teams chose their datasets wisely, with only one team extensively struggling with their chosen datasets.

What did we learn?

She Codes for Change’s major lesson is that data finding and visualization is not a complex phenomenon if taught at an early stage. Since students are not taught much in school about data, many students in the training first thought that data is complicated and not important, however, after understanding the basic concepts and worked together to design a product for its visualization, they realized that data can help them and communities to address their challenges and make informed decisions. Similar to the experience of She Codes for Change, as the Startit team, we realized how empowering creating data-based visualizations can be for teams participating in the Datathon – whether they’re high schoolers, students, or IT professionals. An even more striking realisation is the fact that messy government datasets can become stories which are able to inform the participants, reveal illegal activities or public policy options, and inspire new ideas.

How can we make data storytelling in Tanzania and Serbia more sustainable?

The She Codes for Change team has launched weekly Scratch trainings in Mid-March, which incorporates open data to help our beneficiaries to identify the challenges, and use the data/information available to design and produce products to satisfy the market needs. These trainings are carried out on Tuesday and Thursday of every week. Startit’s blog team Startit.rs is currently in the process of writing blog posts about each of the Datathon participating team projects. We hope these stories will not only motivate the wider public to use open datasets, but also think beyond their messiness and incompleteness, as well as combine them with other data in innovative ways. Additionally, we hope future Datathons will continue to inspire data scientists and enthusiasts to use data visualization for storytelling.

Winning project in Startit’s Datathon – Realistic and abstract map of illegally placed betting shops in Belgrade

Data for stories, maps and education

These two initiatives in. Their outputs may have been different as She Codes for Change resulted in data driven animations, while Startit’s Datathon created data visualizations which sought to reveal illegalities, optimize policies or inform a wider audience. She Codes for Change’s goal was achieved and as a result of the training they were able to create five animation videos that are data driven and informative on the gender, education and health matters. The Open Data Day training has also enabled us to create a platform of motivated young girls to create innovative solutions to the community challenges, hence providing an opportunity for them to raise their voices. As the number of open datasets available to the public in Serbia increases, Startit plans to enable teams of young data scientists to use the power of data storytelling to continue informing and educating the wider public on the relevance and impact of data.

Author bio’s

Rehema Mtandika is a Director of Innovation at She Codes for Change. For over three years she has been working with youths and women in areas of gender empowerment through ICT and innovation, youth engagement in the social-economic development, access to quality education, access to data and information, good governance and peace and security. Katarina Kosmina is the Programme Coordinator at SEE ICT, in charge of developing and organizing programs for 8 Startit Centers across Serbia. These programmes range from programming robots for girls or IoT workshops for high schoolers, thematic hackathons, meetups and workshops for individuals in the IT sector, as well as acceleration programs and data or IP clinics for startups. Our goal is to bring quality and free informal education, as well inspire and empower Serbian youth to enter the IT sector and continue expanding their knowledge and skills. Katarina’s passion for open data and data driven decision-making has led to an increased number in programs which aim at raising the level of data literacy in Serbia.

Advancing in consolidating an open data community and practitioners in South America

Paulina Bustos - April 11, 2018 in Open Data Day, open data day 2018, Open Mapping, Open Science

The case of ARTIGO 19 in Brazil and Datalat in Ecuador

Authors: Paulina Bustos (Artigo 19) and Julio López (Datalat) This blog 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. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The events in this blog were supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open Science and Equal Development themes. After almost 5 years of working in the open data movement, it feels like we have come to a crossroads. We are now wondering if we should continue working on creating more generalistic open data or if we need to start opening with specific topics in mind. The reality is that we need to pursue doing both. A very good example of these two approaches are the Open Data Day events that happened in São Paulo and Quito this year. Here we narrate both events highlighting our learnings and outcomes.  

Dados e Feminicídios (Data and Femicides)

Femicides is a great problem in Latin America and in Brazil the numbers are worrisome. According to a study made in 2015, Brazil occupies the 5th place in the world with the highest index of femicides in the world. Because of this, we decided to work on open data from a Femicides perspective. To present our work and kick-off a collaboration with publishers and users of data relating to femicides we choose the Open Data Day. The event took part in MobiLab, a Mobility Lab in São Paulo. We set up the objective of the event as to improve the quantity and quality of data related to femicides in Brazil. The event was a private one that united people from the government, civil society and journalists working on the topic in Brazil. We had two main activities: Present our research on data and femicides (the event included people who were included in the research) and the second activity was an exercise to understand the barriers and problem with the usage and consumption of this data. As our next steps, we will work with these institutions to improve the quantity and quality of open data related to femicides.

Open Data Day Quito

Working towards consolidating an active community interested in open data was the goal for this year in Quito. Datalat and Medialab have been organising together this event for 3 years, which usually includes workshops, talks and mainly serve as a networking space for the community. This year, around 130 people got together at CIESPAL to celebrate open data. This blog post details what happened that day (in Spanish). An opening panel set the tone for the event, which included speeches from the national institute of statistics and local experts, including for the first time data-driven journalists. Our main insights is that Open Data had a momentum in government in 2015, with many directives and regulations being implemented; however, it slowly vanished. In order to reach out that momentum again, it is necessary to promote and educate more about the benefits of the use of open data and above all to incentivize people to participate more in this public debate. On the skills side, during the event 4 workshops were run by local organisations on their fields of expertise including data mapping, open budgets, SDGs and open research data. About this last topic, Datalat has advanced in creating a local chapter to organise the first OpenCon in Ecuador, which later this year will gather academics and professionals interested in open access, open data and open education. A survey is available in Spanish for those who wish to join this effort.

Insights and outcomes

In the last couple of years we have worked with the idea of improving open data in general, but with this project and event we have realized the importance of creating an open data movement that works in parallel with thematic projects and research. Thematic  events allow us to involve a greater range of people that can make a difference for open data. Education is a huge part of an effective open data movement. We think we will not be able to advance towards an effective use of open data in our region if we do not start education a greater range of people from diverse sectors. We all can do our part to build an open data ecosystem in our communities. With this message, Datalat invites everyone to joint efforts and work collaboratively to have a stronger and diverse open data movement. What started as an effort of 5 people in Quito, has turned into a 28 organisation’s effort to have a local event to visibilize open data in the public agenda. As we move forward to Open Data in Latin America we will be working in advancing specific topics and general practices, always with education in mind.

Local open mapping initiatives in Rwanda and Nicaragua

Youthmappers - April 10, 2018 in nicaragua, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, Open Mapping, rwanda

This blog 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. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The events in this blog were supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open Mapping theme. Local open mapping initiatives are those that end up giving flavor to the world of mapping. It must be because you end up with a product and you generate a data that directly influences your community. Two chapters of the YouthMappers network allowed themselves to be seized by this feeling and carried out two events during this year’s celebration of the Open Data Day. Two projects, two different sites and themes that converge in the same goal: the development of their local communities. Let’s start with the YouthMappers in INES-Ruhengeri. They created open data for the Kangondo Slum neighborhood in the city of Kigali, Rwanda. The Kangondo slum is the largest slum in Rwanda in the Grade A area (upper area) of the city of Kigali. All the houses in the area are not well planned and the crowded houses lack basic needs such as potable water, adequate sanitation and adequate sewage. The created open data will be used for the marginal neighborhood improvement process (Slum upgrading). For them, this activity was a good opportunity to share not only the importance of open data in the development of the local community with attending authorities, but also a time to discuss the use of open data to address local development challenges. During the event,  it was shown how to create open data using the OpenStreetMap online mapping platform. Applying participatory mapping was identified as a powerful measure to show the challenges within community development through evidences. However, it was revealed that there is a big gap to obtain open data. The YouthMappers of INES-Ruhengeri were appreciated for their initiative to create open data and the representatives of the authorities agreed to use that data to make evidence based decisions. As a result, YouthMappers at INES-Ruhengeri have created 1374 data including slum homes, roads and sidewalks.   On the other side of the world we find the YEKA Street MGA YouthMappers chapter of the Faculty of Architecture at the National University of Engineering located in Managua, Nicaragua. They decided to organize a Mapathon to finalize the mapping of one of their projects on the categorization and inventory of houses with vernacular construction systems, in the north of the country, more specifically in the limits of the Municipality of Condega in the department of Esteli. This project was led by the “Asociación Mujeres Constructoras de Condega” (Condega Women Builders Association), who have been responsible throughout the years for trying to make these techniques recover their reputation and their importance within the culture and history of Nicaragua, which was affected after the earthquake that affected the country in December 1972. The purpose of this project is to obtain a count of the number of buildings with land-based construction systems existing in the area, the classification by constructive typology of said buildings and the identification of families or people in the area engaged in construction traditional with these systems. During the execution of the Mapathon they touched on relevant topics for that day, such as: what is open data and why is it important? Also, how does OpenStreetMap and Mapbox, together with organizations such as YouthMappers and YEKA Street MGA, contribute to this ideal? There was also an explanation of what the project consisted of and its purpose and the training of the participants in relation to the use of the OpenStreetMap platform. The call to the event was very well received, they had an incredible participation. Taking into account the participation in other events, in their context, this type of event is stressful because of the difficulty of raising awareness among the academy and students about the importance of volunteering and open data. That’s why they felt incredible to see such participation on that day and to add two new members to their chapter YouthMappers. The purpose of Mapathon was not completed in its entirety, due to technical problems and poor satellite image with which they counted. But they were satisfied with the fact that they have been able to open a gap within the academy where the use of open data and programs that support them can fit into.

Open Data Day 2018 at iWatch Africa and Open Knowledge Colombia

Luis Vilches-Blázquez - 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.

Context

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.).  

Challenges

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:

Methodology

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.

Conclusions

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.

Open Data Day 2018 in Ethiopia and Nigeria

Solomon Mekonnen - April 5, 2018 in Open Data Day, open data day 2018, open research data, Open Science

Authors: Bolutife Adisa (Open Switch Africa) and Solomon Mekonnen (Open Knowledge Ethiopia) This blog 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. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The events in this blog were supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open Science & Open Research Data theme. Two notable events were held in celebration of Open Data Day 2018 in Africa. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Open Knowledge Ethiopia with the support of Addis Ababa University, Open Knowledge International and SPARC hosted OpenCon 2018 Addis Ababa (a satellite event of the global annual OpenCon meeting). The event brought together 25 participants including students, researchers, academics and Librarians. In Nigeria, Open Data Day 2018 Lagos was organized by Open Switch Africa in partnership with Open Knowledge International, SPARC and the University of Lagos Science Students Association. This event was to further improve and sensitize the community of students researchers, advocates and academics on open data and the adoption of Open Education Resources in Nigeria.

Ethiopia: OpenCon 2018 Addis Abeba

The Open Data Day event in Ethiopia was officially opened by Mr. Mesfin Gezahegn, University Librarian of Addis Ababa University (AAU). He stressed that AAU strongly supports open data initiatives and hosted various workshops and trainings in open data, open access and open science. He also promised that the University will continue supporting open data initiatives in the future. Following the opening, Mr. Solomon Mekonnen of AAU introduced participants to open science concepts with sharing international initiatives related to open science that can also be applied in Ethiopia. The next talk was about open research data by Dr. Melkamu Beyene, Assistant professor at AAU, focusing on the advantages of opening research data and issues to be considered when sharing data. The final presentation for the morning session was by Mr. Mesfin Gezahegn on the role of open data to fight corruption in Ethiopia.

Clockwise from top left: Mesfin Gezahegn, Dr. Mikamu Beyene, panel discussion, Solomon Mekkonen

Following the presentations, a panel discussion was conducted mainly focusing on open science and open research data. Major issues raised included licensing options when sharing research data, policy for open research data, creating awareness on open research data and open science and the role of open data communities in pushing forward the agenda of open science. In the afternoon session, several open science tools were demonstrated to the participants, including Zenodo, re3data, ORCID and the Open Science Framework (OSF). There was also a session for lighting talks which attracted two graduate students to talk about their research projects and get feedback from the participants. Postgraduate students Yemaneberhan Lemma and Olyad Fekede talked about their project on Linked data and Sentiment Analysis respectively connecting with open data. Mr. Michael Melese who is a PhD student at AAU also shared his experience on open science tools to the participants. Finally the event was concluded by a discussion on future activities. It was agreed that the event successfully created awareness on open science and open research data, but it was stressed that there is a need for longer training on these topics to PhD students and early career researchers. It was also suggested that there should be monthly open knowledge Ethiopia community meetups to collaborate on open science issues that are raised in the workshop. The only challenge faced during the workshop, was power failure in the computer laboratory for some time in the middle of running the practical sessions but the participants use their personal laptop and smartphones to continue practicing on open science tools.

Nigeria: Open Data Day 2018 Lagos

The Open Data event in Lagos started with a keynote on open data from Dr Ahmed Ogunlaja, Executive Director of Open Access Nigeria, where he exposed participants to the importance of Open Education Resources, open research data and the current state of openness initiatives in Nigeria. Afterwards, a workshop on open data tools and Creative Commons licenses was led by Mr Kayode Yussuf, tech lead Creative Commons Nigeria. He took attendees through the various open data tools and discussed success stories in the Nigerian open data space. He gave an overview of portals like Wikidata and the Open Science Framework (OSF) and explained all the available open licenses that exist under the Creative Commons platform. The event rounded up with a panel session where both speakers were joined by Mr Adisa Bolutife, Co-founder of Open Switch Africa, to hold an interactive discussion and question and answer segment with the attendees. Community members were able to share their challenges and difficulties in working in the open sphere and were given valuable advice from the members of the panel. Some of the valuable feedback given by the participants were the need for a unified portal for accessing open data in Nigeria, and the need for the Nigerian community to step up to the challenge of making data open in form of linked data. The total number of attendees at the Lagos event was 220, including students, researchers, academics and other professionals who were new to the open data space. It was a successful event and the purpose of the event was achieved because valuable feedback was recorded from the open community which was later presented to the Director of policy and planning at the Federal Ministry of Communications Technology on the 19th of March, 2018 at an Open Data roundtable organised by the Nigerian Government in Lagos, Nigeria. The community hopes to continually update itself on recent open data policy steps that are being taken by the government and periodically share best practices. Both communities were able to achieve their aim in hosting the events. The major similarity between both events was the emphasis on open data tools and its benefits.