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#OpenDataDay 16 in Quito, connecting people and data-driven ideas

Mor Rubinstein - March 9, 2016 in Data Journalism, Open Data Day

This post was written by Julio López P – 2015 School of Data Fellow. Julio is currentl working on energy information management and capacity building projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.

See post in Spanish on ILDA’s (Iniciativa Latinoamericana por los Datos Abiertos) blog

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In 2016, the Quito open data community  joined the worldwide celebrations for Open Data Day. It all started a month ago with an online call from School of Data and the MediaLab UIO to collect ideas and proposals to organise the event in our city.On Saturday, 5 March 2016, around 80 people joined our event, which included two opening presentations about the potential of Open Data in Ecuador and four interactive workshops. Here we share some details:

Mapping Quito

A civic mapping workshop was led by the MediaLab UIO, who shared their experiences on how to map and collect data around urban issues and groups and also invited participants to contribute with ideas for future mapping projects. The Latin American and the Caribbean Youth Network on Climate Change (CLIC) joined the workshop to share their project YoutHAB, a conference for groups of young people working towards sustainable urban development that will take place in Quito this year along with the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III.

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Data Science and Python

Learning coding with Python may not be at the top of your list, but Carlos De Smedt (Atikux, @wikicarlos), an Ecuadorian developer, shared his knowledge with a bunch of people interested in using this tool to do scraping and other tricks to use data in different ways. They also had time to talk about data science and its possible applications.

How to manage open data?

anaging data is not an easy task. We had a team from ThoughtWorks Ecuador who shared an open tool to find (CSV, Excel, APIs), use and visualize data from open data portals. They used a dataset from the World Bank on foreign debt to show participants how to use this tool to create a simple model to work with these data as they would do in a company.

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Working in Quito

Data Driven Journalism

In the region we have some fact checking projects, such as Chequeando, El Sabueso and Ojo Bionico. During the ODD16,  a new fact checking project called El Verificador – Gkillcity was attended and presented. They had fun listening to a TV programme from the Presidency of Ecuador that is broadcast on Saturdays to get material to fact check. They identified 14 facts and checked five using public data, we hope that they will publish the results soon.

All of these presenters showed how interesting it is to work with data and data-driven projects (thanks for that!). We had lots of fun and mostly people enjoyed the idea of having these type of events organised by local communities to share and spread their knowledge and explore common ideas around open data.

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The local community around open data is growing in Quito and surely more proposals and events are just around the corner! Let’s keep an eye on it!

I would like to thank everyone who was involved in the organisation of the event: Ivan Terceros, Ruben Zavala and Pablo Escandón (MediaLab UIO); Lisette Arevalo, Isabel Jervis, Rodney Espinosa, Denise Valle, Lorena Serrano and Doménica Garcés (GkillCity); Carlos De Smedt (Atikux); Carlos Fuentes, Mauricio Murillo, Gabriela Chasifan and Byron Torres (ThoughWorks Ecuador); Ana Cristina Benalcazar, Margarita Yepez, Roberto Madera and Christian Lopez (YoutHAB) and Susana Guevara (Fundación Telefónica Ecuador).

Special thanks to Open Knowledge International and the Latin American Open Data Initiative (ILDA) for funding this event and CIESPAL (MediaLab Uio) for letting us use their building.

To follow the activities on twitter: @OpenDataEc  #ODDEc . See more pictures of the event

New Report: “Changing What Counts: How Can Citizen-Generated and Civil Society Data Be Used as an Advocacy Tool to Change Official Data Collection?”

Jonathan Gray - March 3, 2016 in Data Journalism, Open Data, Open Government Data, Policy, Research

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Following on from our discussion paper on “Democratising the Data Revolution”, today we’re pleased to announce the release of a new report titled “Changing What Counts: How Can Citizen-Generated and Civil Society Data Be Used as an Advocacy Tool to Change Official Data Collection?”.

Undertaken as a collaboration between Open Knowledge and the CIVICUS DataShift, the report contains seven case studies accompanied by a series of recommendations for civil society groups, public institutions and policy-makers. The case studies cover data collection initiatives around a wide variety of different topics – from literacy rates in East Africa to water access in Malawi, migration deaths in Europe to fracking pollution in the US. It was researched and written by myself, Danny Lämmerhirt and Liliana Bounegru.

We hope that it will contribute to advancing policies and practices to make public information systems more responsive to the interests and concerns of civil society. You can download the full report here.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

The information systems of public institutions play a crucial role in how we collectively look at and act in the world. They shape the way decisions are made, progress is evaluated, resources are allocated, issues are flagged, debates are framed and action is taken. As a United Nations (UN) report recently put it, “Data are the lifeblood of decision-making and the raw material for accountability.”1

Every information system renders certain aspects of the world visible and lets others recede into the background. Datasets highlight some things and not others. They make the world comprehensible and navigable in their own way – whether for the purposes of policy evaluation, public service delivery, administration or governance.

Given the critical role of public information systems, what happens when they leave out parts of the picture that civil society groups consider vital? What can civil society actors do to shape or influence these systems so they can be used to advance progress around social, democratic and environmental issues?

This report looks at how citizens and civil society groups can generate data as a means to influence institutional data collection. In the following pages, we profile citizen generated and civil society data projects and how they have been used as advocacy instruments to change institutional data collection – including looking at the strategies, methods, technologies and resources that have been mobilised to this end. We conclude with a series of recommendations for civil society groups, public institutions, policy-makers and funders.

The report was commissioned as part of a research series by DataShift, an initiative that builds the capacity and confidence of civil society organisations to produce and use citizen-generated data. It follows on from another recent discussion paper from Open Knowledge on what can be done to make the “data revolution” more responsive to the interests and concerns of civil society,2 as well as a briefing note by DataShift on how institutions can support sustainability of citizen-generated data initiatives.3

Forbes Philippines & BlogWatch win best story award as Data Journalism PH wraps up

Sam Leon - December 15, 2015 in Data Journalism

At the end of November, Open Knowledge, School of Data and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) wrapped-up their six-month data journalism training for media organisations in the Philippines, the first of its kind.

Over 100 journalists and civil servants gathered at the Cocoon Hotel in Quezon City to see the twelve participating media teams present their work and listen to keynotes from The Guardian’s Caelainn Barr, Undersecretary Richard Moya (Open Data Task Force Philippines), Kenneth Abante (Department of Finance) and Rogier Van Den Brink (World Bank) on the interplay between government open data and public integrity journalism.

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Kenneth Abante from the Department of Finance speaking at the wrap-up event of Data Journalism PH 2015

The World Bank funded programme equipped participating newsrooms with the tools and techniques for mining the ever increasing volumes of public data being published by Philippine government departments via their national government data portal, data.gov.ph. After an initial intensive three-day training in July 2015 the teams received regular remote training sessions on data skills from Open Knowledge and editorial support from PCIJ as they progressed with their proposed data stories. Teams worked on diverse topics from probing who really benefits from the the Philippines’ Bottom Up Budgeting initiative to following where money allocated to the reconstruction effort after Typhoon Yolanda actually went.

Five of the twelve participating teams were able to publish their stories before the event with a number of teams finalising their articles for print publications in the new year. Forbes Philippines and BlogWatch were awarded prizes for best story by PCIJ and Open Knowledge based on the originality of their stories, their approach to data collection and the strength of their narrative. Forbes Philippines collected data from the SEC on independent directors and correlated this with company performance to give a unique view on corporate accountability in the Philippines. BlogWatch persevered with a range of large publicly available datasets on aid and reconstruction. The team also took to social media to crowdsource information that was missing in order to follow the money that was plugged into various projects in the wake of the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda.

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Winning teams BlogWatch (Jane Uymatiao & Noemi Lardizabal-Dado) and Forbes Philippines (Lala Rimando & Lorenxo Subido) with Sam Leon (Open Knowledge) and Malou Mangahas (PCIJ)

Philippine Star ran an analysis of data published by the Department for Education on how many new schools were being built that would not have access to electricity and water. Business World looked at new trends in investment amongst Filipino citizens and summarised their results in an infographic. Calbayog Post investigated how projects approved under the Bottom Up Budgeting scheme in Samar Province had performed. The Financial Times produced a visual slideshow on the Philippines’ dependence on renewables and the opportunities for hydro power using data published by the Department of Energy. You can read the published stories below with the exception of Forbes Philippines’ which will be published in their January 2016 editions. Other participating teams including Rappler, PCIJ, Interaksyon, ABS-CBN, Bloomberg, Inquirer were not able to publish in time for the deadline, but hope to publish their stories in the coming weeks.

The Philippines has made substantial progress in recent years in government transparency. Launching a national government open data portal in 2014 and setting up an Open Data Task Force within the civil service to catalyse further open data releases across national and local government. The programme demonstrated the promise of open data by enabling participating journalists to shed light on issues of critical national importance to the broader public. It also put into sharp focus areas that needed more work from publishing government departments. Too many critical datasets were incomplete, not maintained actively, contained inconsistencies that made them difficult to analyse and were not available for free.

A selection of the online tutorials, data recipes and training material have been made available for all to use on the project website including guides to using a range of tools such as Infogr.am, CartoDB, Import.io and DocumentCloud.

Data-driven articles produced as part of the programme

Forbes Philippines and BlogWatch were awarded prizes for best story by PCIJ and Open Knowledge based on the originality of their stories, their approach to data collection and the strength of their narrative.

Testimonials from some of the participant journalists

“The workshop allowed me to be braver in pursuing irregularities and anomalies with the help of data, but also to be careful in making conclusions. It’s a nice intro to data journalism.” – Michael Joseph Bueza, Rappler

“Data Journalism PH 2015 is a workshop every serious journalist should take. More than teaching me practical skills – how to create maps, infographics, and spreadsheets – it made me realize how important it is to use hard facts, as opposed to merely relying on statements, to create a public that is more informed and more critical.” – Patricia Aquino, Interaksyon

“A great program! PCIJ has always set the standard for investigative journalism. Open Knowledge did a great job teaching us data journalism and the different skills it requires. Looking forward to continuing to work with the whole PCIJ team. The reports of the other teams were informative as well. Thumbs up to the whole group.” – Nestor Corrales, Inquirer

“The best journalism program ever that united my writing and analysis skills.” – Rommel Rutor, Calbayog Post

“It was a great chance to know how and why consumers and processors of data (i.e. the journalists) are seeking more from the producers of data (government, private sector). “ – Lala Rimando, Forbes Philippines

“It was a great opportunity to be part of this programme. I’m really interested in improving my technical and editorial skills on data mining and thanks to PCIJ and Open Knowledge, I’ve really learned a lot.” – Kia Obang, BusinessWorld Publishing

“Open data seems like an issue reserved for a select number of people, but it’s a subject that so many people need to be familiar with. Learning more about it through the programme can give you the right tools to turn open data into powerful analysis.” – Kyle Subido, Forbes Philippines

“If you want to learn how to dig into huge data, you gotta take this training. “ – Jose Gerwin Babob, Calbayog Post

“As a reporter covering different beats, including survey results, the training helped me learn new skills that would make me more effective in writing investigative stories by correctly analyzing and interpreting datasets. I really appreciate the efforts of the PCIJ and the Open Knowledge in coming up with such training for journalists like us. This will be a very good addition to our resumes. :-)” – Helen Flores, Philippine Star

“Had a grand time. Learned about the existence of free online tools which could potentially take off about 25% of my previous workload.” – Dan Paurom, Inquirer

“The Data Journalism Philippines 2015 is a timely program for Filipino journalists who are interested in making sense of the huge amount of data that are readily available online. The things that we have learned during the duration of the program equipped us with the necessary skills needed to produce quality data-driven articles for our respective organizations.” – Jan Victor Mateo, Philippine Star

Launch of timber tracking dashboard for Global Witness

Sam Leon - July 31, 2015 in Data Journalism

Open Knowledge has produced an interactive trade dashboard for anti-corruption NGO Global Witness to supplement their exposé on EU and US companies importing illegal timber from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

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The DRC Timber Timber Trade Tracker consumes open data from DataHub.io to visualise where in the world Congolese timber is going. The dashboard makes it easy to identify countries that are importing large volumes of potentially illegal timber, and to see where timber shipped by companies accused of systematic illegal logging and social and environmental abuses is going on.

Global Witness has long campaigned for greater oversight of the logging industry in DRC which is home to two thirds of the world’s second largest rainforest. The logging industry is mired with corruption with two of the DRC’s biggest loggers allegedly complicit in the beating and raping of local populations. Alexandra Pardal, campaign leader at Global Witness said:

We knew that DRC logging companies were breaking the law, but the extent of illegality is truly shocking. The EU and US are failing in their legal obligations to keep timber linked to illegal logging, violence and intimidation off our shop floors. Traders are cashing in on a multi-million dollar business that is pushing the world’s vanishing rainforests to extinction.

The dashboard is part of a long term collaboration between Open Knowledge and Global Witness through which they have jointly created a series of interactives and data-driven investigations around corruption and conflict in the extractives industries.

To read the full report and see the dashboard go here.

If you work for an organisation that wants to make its data come alive on the web, get in touch with our team through services.okfn.org.

New Discussion Paper: “Democratising the Data Revolution”

Jonathan Gray - July 9, 2015 in Campaigning, Data Journalism, Open Data, Open Government Data, open knowledge, Policy, Research

Democratising the Data Revolution

“New technologies are leading to an exponential increase in the volume and types of data available, creating unprecedented possibilities for informing and transforming society and protecting the environment. Governments, companies, researchers and citizen groups are in a ferment of experimentation, innovation and adaptation to the new world of data, a world in which data are bigger, faster and more detailed than ever before. This is the data revolution.” – UN Data Revolution Group, 2014

What will the “data revolution” do? What will it be about? What will it count? What kinds of risks and harms might it bring? Whom and what will it serve? And who will get to decide?

Today we are launching a new discussion paper on “Democratising the Data Revolution”, which is intended to advance thinking and action around civil society engagement with the data revolution. It looks beyond the disclosure of existing information, towards more ambitious and substantive forms of democratic engagement with data infrastructures.1

It concludes with a series of questions about what practical steps institutions and civil society organisations might take to change what is measured and how, and how these measurements are put to work.

You can download the full PDF report here, or continue to read on in this blog post.

What Counts?

How might civil society actors shape the data revolution? In particular, how might they go beyond the question of what data is disclosed towards looking at what is measured in the first place? To kickstart discussion around this topic, we will look at three kinds of intervention: changing existing forms of measurement, advocating new forms of measurement and undertaking new forms of measurement.

Changing Existing Forms of Measurement

Rather than just focusing on the transparency, disclosure and openness of public information, civil society groups can argue for changing what is measured with existing data infrastructures. One example of this is recent campaigning around company ownership in the UK. Advocacy groups wanted to unpick networks of corporate ownership and control in order to support their campaigning and investigations around tax avoidance, tax evasion and illicit financial flows.

While the UK company register recorded information about “nominal ownership”, it did not include information about so-called “beneficial ownership”, or who ultimately benefits from the ownership and control of companies. Campaigners undertook an extensive programme of activities to advocate for changes and extensions to existing data infrastructures – including via legislation, software systems, and administrative protocols.2

Advocating New Forms of Measurement

As well as changing or recalibrating existing forms of measurement, campaigners and civil society organisations can make the case for the measurement of things which were not previously measured. For example, over the past several decades social and political campaigning has resulted in new indicators about many different issues – such as gender inequality, health, work, disability, pollution or education.3 In such cases activists aimed to establish a given indicator as important and relevant for public institutions, decision makers, and broader publics – in order to, for example, inform policy development or resource allocation.

Undertaking New Forms of Measurement

Historically, many civil society organisations and advocacy groups have collected their own data to make the case for action on issues that they work on – from human rights abuses to endangered species.

Recently there have been several data journalism projects which highlight gaps in what is officially counted. The Migrant Files is an open database containing information about over 29,000 people who died on their way to Europe since 2000, collated from publicly available sources. It was created by a network of journalists (coordinated by J++) who were concerned that this data was not being systematically collected by European institutions. In a similar vein The Counted project from The Guardian records information about deaths in police custody in the US, explicitly in response to the lack of official data collection on this topic.

The Migrant Files

The Role of the Open Data Movement

The nascent open data movement has often focused on the release of pre-existing information about things which are already routinely measured by public institutions. Advocates have pushed for the release of datasets under open licenses in machine-readable formats to facilitate widespread re-use – whether to develop new applications and services, or to facilitate new forms of journalism and advocacy. Datasets are often published via data portals, of which there are now hundreds around the world at local, regional, national and supranational levels.

As well as opening up new datasets, some public institutions have implemented mechanisms to gather input and feedback on open data release priorities, such as:

  • Advisory panels and user groups – e.g. as the UK’s Open Data User Group (ODUG);
  • Dedicated staff – e.g. community management or “Chief Data Officer” positions;
  • User engagement channels – e.g. social media accounts, forums and mailing lists;
  • Data request mechanisms – e.g. Data.gov.uk’s dataset request service or the EU Open Data Portal’s “Suggest a Dataset” form;
  • Consultation processes – e.g. Open Government Partnership National Action Plans;
  • Solicitation for input around data standards – e.g. the US’s Federal Spending Transparency issue tracker on GitHub.

In principle these kinds of mechanisms could be used not just to inform priorities for the release of existing datasets – but also in order to facilitate engagement between institutions and civil society actors around what should be measured by the public sector and how.

To use a metaphor, if data can be compared to photography, then might the open data movement play a role in intervening not just around access and circulation of snapshots taken by public institutions, but also around what is depicted and how it is shot?

Questions for Discussion

We would like to catalyse discussion and gather input about how to increase civil society engagement around the data revolution and questions about what should be measured and how. To this end, we invite advocacy groups, journalists, public institutions, data users, researchers and others to respond to the following questions.

What Can Civil Society Groups Do?
  • What can civil society organisations do to engage with the data revolution?
  • What role might the nascent open data movement play in mediating between civil society organisations and public institutions around what should be measured?
  • What opportunities does the data revolution present for civil society organisations?
  • What are the best examples of democratic interventions to change, advocate or create new forms of measurement (both present and past)?
  • What are the biggest obstacles to greater civil society engagement with the data revolution? How might these be addressed?
  • Which kinds of transnational challenges and issues (e.g. climate change, tax base erosion) are currently inadequately dealt with by national data infrastructures?
  • What areas might new kinds of measurement make the biggest difference, and how?
  • What factors are most important in ensuring that data leads to action?
  • What might civil society groups do to flag potential risks and unwanted consequences of data infrastructures as well as their benefits?
What Can Public Institutions Do?
  • What can public institutions do to better understand the interests and priorities of civil society organisations around what should be measured?
  • Are there examples of where open data initiatives have facilitated significant changes to existing datasets, or the creation of new kinds of datasets?
  • Which kinds of mechanisms might be most effective in understanding and responding to the interests of civil society organisations around what is measured and how?
  • What are the biggest obstacles to public institutions responding more effectively to the data needs and interests of civil society groups? How might these be addressed?

How to Respond

We welcome responses on these and other topics via the channels below:


  1. In this context we understand data infrastructures as composites of technical, legal and social systems (e.g. software, laws, policies, practices, standards) involved in the creation and management of data. 

  2. See: Gray, J. & Davies, T (2015) “Fighting Phantom Firms in the UK: From Opening Up Datasets to Reshaping Data Infrastructures?”. Working paper available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2610937 

  3. See: Bruno, I., Didier, E., and Vitale, T. (eds) (2014) Statistics and Activism. Special issue of Partecipazione e conflitto. The Open Journal of Sociopolitical Studies. Available at: http://siba-ese.unisalento.it/index.php/paco/issue/view/1248 

Just Released: “Where Does Europe’s Money Go? A Guide to EU Budget Data Sources”

Jonathan Gray - July 2, 2015 in Data Journalism, Featured, open knowledge, Open Spending, Policy, Research, Where Does My Money Go

The EU has committed to spending €959 988 million between 2014 and 2020. This money is disbursed through over 80 funds and programmes that are managed by over 100 different authorities. Where does this money come from? How is it allocated? And how is it spent?

Today we are delighted to announce the release of “Where Does Europe’s Money Go? A Guide to EU Budget Data Sources”, which aims to help civil society groups, journalists and others to navigate the vast landscape of documents and datasets in order to “follow the money” in the EU. The guide also suggests steps that institutions should take in order to enable greater democratic oversight of EU public finances. It was undertaken by Open Knowledge with support from the Adessium Foundation.

Where Does Europe's Money Go?

As we have seen from projects like Farm Subsidy and journalistic collaborations around the EU Structural Funds it can be very difficult and time-consuming to put together all of the different pieces needed to understand flows of EU money.

Groups of journalists on these projects have spent many months requesting, scraping, cleaning and assembling data to get an overview of just a handful of the many different funds and programmes through which EU money is spent. The analysis of this data has led to many dozens of news stories, and in some cases even criminal investigations.

Better data, documentation, advocacy and journalism around EU public money is vital to addressing the “democratic deficit” in EU fiscal policy. To this end, we make the following recommendations to EU institutions and civil society organisations:

  1. Establish a single central point of reference for data and documents about EU revenue, budgeting and expenditure and ensure all the information is up to date at this domain (e.g. at a website such as ec.europa.eu/budget). At the same time, ensure all EU budget data are available from the EU open data portal as open data.
  2. Create an open dataset with key details about each EU fund, including name of the fund, heading, policy, type of management, implementing authorities, link to information on beneficiaries, link to legal basis in Eur-Lex and link to regulation in Eur-Lex.
  3. Extend the Financial Transparency System to all EU funds by integrating or federating detailed data expenditures from Members States, non-EU Members and international organisations. Data on beneficiaries should include, when relevant, a unique European identifier of company, and when the project is co-financed, the exact amount of EU funding received and the total amount of the project.
  4. Clarify and harmonise the legal framework regarding transparency rules for the beneficiaries of EU funds.
  5. Support and strengthen funding for civil society groups and journalists working on EU public finances.
  6. Conduct a more detailed assessment of beneficiary data availability for all EU funds and for all implementing authorities – e.g., through a dedicated “open data audit”.
  7. Build a stronger central base of evidence about the uses and users of EU fiscal data – including data projects, investigative journalism projects and data users in the media and civil society.

Our intention is that the material in this report will become a living resource that we can continue to expand and update. If you have any comments or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you.

If you are interested in learning more about Open Knowledge’s other initiatives around open data and financial transparency you can explore the Where Does My Money Go? project, the OpenSpending project, read our other previous guides and reports or join the Follow the Money network.

Where Does Europe’s Money Go - A Guide to EU Budget Data Sources

Call for applications for Data Journalism Philippines 2015

Sam Leon - May 27, 2015 in Data Journalism, Featured

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Open Knowledge in partnership with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism is pleased to announce the launch of Data Journalism Ph 2015. Supported by the World Bank, the program will train journalists and citizen media in producing high-quality, data-driven stories.

In recent years, government and multilateral agencies in the Philippines have published large amounts of data such as the government’s recently launched Open Data platform. These were accompanied by other platforms that track the implementation and expenditure of flagship programs such as Bottom-Up-Budgeting via OpenBUB.gov.ph, Infrastructure via OpenRoads.ph and reconstruction platforms including the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub. The training aims to encourage more journalists to use these and other online resources to produce compelling investigative stories.

Data Journalism Ph 2015 will train journalists on the tools and techniques required to gain and communicate insight from public data, including web scraping, database analysis and interactive visualization. The program will support journalists in using data to back their stories, which will be published by their media organization over a period of five months.

Participating teams will benefit from the following:

  • A 3-day data journalism training workshop by the Open Knowledge and PCIJ in July 2015 in Manila
  • A series of online tutorials on a variety of topics from digital security to online mapping
  • Technical support in developing interactive visual content to accompany their published stories

Apply now!

Teams of up to three members working with the same print, TV, or online media agencies in the Philippines are invited to submit an application here.

Participants will be selected on the basis of the data story projects they pitch focused on key datasets including infrastructure, reconstruction, participatory budgeting, procurement and customs. Through Data Journalism Ph 2015 and its trainers, these projects will be developed into data stories to be published by the participants’ media organizations.

Join the launch

Open Knowledge and PCIJ will host a half-day public event for those interested in the program in July in Quezon City. If you would like to receive full details about the event, please sign up here.

To follow the programme as it progresses go to the Data Journalism 2015 Ph project website.

Global Witness and Open Knowledge – Working together to investigate and campaign against corruption related to the extractives industries

Sam Leon - November 14, 2014 in Data Journalism, Featured, Visualization

Sam Leon, one of Open Knowledge’s data experts, talks about his experiences working as an School of Data Embedded Fellow at Global Witness.

Global Witness are a Nobel Peace Prize nominated not-for-profit organisation devoted to investigating and campaigning against corruption related to the extractives industries. Earlier this year they received the TED Prize and were awarded $1 million to help fight corporate secrecy and on the back of which they launched their End Anonymous Companies campaign.


In February 2014 I began a six month ‘Embedded Fellowship’ at Global Witness, one of the world’s leading anti-corruption NGOs. Global Witness are no strangers to data. They’re been publishing pioneering investigative research for over two decades now, piecing together the complex webs of financial transactions, shell companies and middlemen that so often lie at the heart of corruption in the extractives industries.

Like many campaigning organisations, Global Witness are seeking new and compelling ways to visualise their research, as well as use more effectively the large amounts of public data that have become available in the last few years.

“Sam Leon has unleashed a wave of innovation at Global Witness”
-Gavin Hayman, Executive Director of Global Witness

As part of my work, I’ve delivered data trainings at all levels of the organisation – from senior management to the front line staff. I’ve also been working with a variety of staff to use data collected by Global Witness to create compelling infographics. It’s amazing how powerful these can be to draw attention to stories and thus support Global Witness’s advocacy work.

The first interactive we published on the sharp rise of deaths of environmental defenders demonstrated this. The way we were able to pack some of the core insights of a much more detailed report into a series of images that people could dig into proved a hit on social media and let the story travel further.

GW Info

See here for the full infographic on Global Witness’s website.

But powerful visualisation isn’t just about shareability. It’s also about making a point that would otherwise be hard to grasp without visual aids. Global Witness regularly publish mind-boggling statistics on the scale of corruption in the oil and gas sector.

“The interactive infographics we worked on with Open Knowledge made a big difference to the report’s online impact. The product allowed us to bring out the key themes of the report in a simple, compelling way. This allowed more people to absorb and share the key messages without having to read the full report, but also drew more people into reading it.”
-Oliver Courtney, Senior Campaigner at Global Witness

Take for instance, the $1.1 billion that the Nigerian people were deprived of due to the corruption around the sale of Africa’s largest oil block, OPL 245.

$1.1 billion doesn’t mean much to me, it’s too big of a number. What we sought to do visually was represent the loss to Nigerian citizens in terms of things we could understand like basic health care provision and education.

See here for the full infographic on Shell, ENI and Nigeria’s Missing Millions.


In October 2014, to accompany Global Witness’s campaign against anonymous company ownership, we worked with developers from data journalism startup J++ on The Great Rip Off map.

The aim was to bring together and visualise the vast number of corruption case studies involving shell companies that Global Witness and its partners have unearthed in recent years.

The Great Rip Off!

It was a challenging project that required input from designers, campaigners, developers, journalists and researchers, but we’re proud of what we produced.

Open data principles were followed throughout as Global Witness were committed to creating a resource that its partners could draw on in their advocacy efforts. The underlying data was made available in bulk under a Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license and open source libraries like Leaflet.js were used. There was also an invite for other parties to submit case studies into the database.

“It’s transformed the way we work, it’s made us think differently how we communicate information: how we make it more accessible, visual and exciting. It’s really changed the way we do things.”
-Brendan O’Donnell, Campaign Leader at Global Witness

For more information on the School of Data Embedded Fellowship Scheme, and to see further details on the work we produced with Global Witness, including interactive infographics, please see the full report here.

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The School of Data Journalism 2014!

Milena Marin - April 3, 2014 in Data Journalism, Events, Featured, School of Data

DJH_5 copy

We’re really excited to announce this year’s edition of the School of Data Journalism, at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, 30th April – 4th May.

It’s the third time we’ve run it (how time flies!), together with the European Journalism Centre, and it’s amazing seeing the progress that has been made since we started out. Data has become an increasingly crucial part of any journalists’ toolbox, and its rise is only set to continue. The Data Journalism Handbook, which was born at the first School of Data Journalism is Perugia, has become a go-to reference for all those looking to work with data in the news, a fantastic testament to the strength of the data journalism community.

As Antoine Laurent, Innovation Senior Project Manager at the EJC, said:

“This is really a must-attend event for anyone with an interest in data journalism. The previous years’ events have each proven to be watershed moments in the development of data journalism. The data revolution is making itself felt across the profession, offering new ways to tell stories and speak truth to power. Be part of the change.”

Here’s the press release about this year’s event – share it with anyone you think might be interested – and book your place now!


PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 3rd, 2014

Europe’s Biggest Data Journalism Event Announced: the School of Data Journalism

The European Journalism Centre, Open Knowledge and the International Journalism Festival are pleased to announce the 3rd edition of Europe’s biggest data journalism event, the School of Data Journalism. The 2014 edition takes place in Perugia, Italy between 30th of April – 4th of May as part of the International Journalism Festival.

#ddjschool #ijf13

A team of about 25 expert panelists and instructors from New York Times, The Daily Mirror, Twitter, Ask Media, Knight-Mozilla and others will lead participants in a mix of discussions and hands-on sessions focusing on everything from cross-border data-driven investigative journalism, to emergency reporting and using spreadsheets, social media data, data visualisation and mapping techniques for journalism.

Entry to the School of Data Journalism panels and workshops is free. Last year’s editions featured a stellar team of panelists and instructors, attracted hundreds of journalists and was fully booked within a few days. The year before saw the launch of the seminal Data Journalism Handbook, which remains the go-to reference for practitioners in the field.

Antoine Laurent, Innovation Senior Project Manager at the EJC said:

“This is really a must-attend event for anyone with an interest in data journalism. The previous years’ events have each proven to be watershed moments in the development of data journalism. The data revolution is making itself felt across the profession, offering new ways to tell stories and speak truth to power. Be part of the change.”

Guido Romeo, Data and Business Editor at Wired Italy, said:

“I teach in several journalism schools in Italy. You won’t get this sort of exposure to such teachers and tools in any journalism school in Italy. They bring in the most avant garde people, and have a keen eye on what’s innovative and new. It has definitely helped me understand what others around the world in big newsrooms are doing, and, more importantly, how they are doing it.”

The full description and the (free) registration to the sessions can be found on http://datajournalismschool.net You can also find all the details on the International Journalism Festival website: http://www.journalismfestival.com/programme/2014

ENDS

Contacts: Antoine Laurent, Innovation Senior Project Manager, European Journalism Centre: laurent@ejc.net Milena Marin, School of Data Programme Manager, Open Knowledge Foundation, milena.marin@okfn.org

Notes for editors

Website: http://datajournalismschool.net Hashtag: #DDJSCHOOL

The School of Data Journalism is part of the European Journalism Centre’s Data Driven Journalism initiative, which aims to enable more journalists, editors, news developers and designers to make better use of data and incorporate it further into their work. Started in 2010, the initiative also runs the website DataDrivenJournalism.net as well as the Doing Journalism with Data MOOC, and produced the acclaimed Data Journalism Handbook.

About the International Journalism Festival (www.journalismfestival.com) The International Journalism Festival is the largest media event in Europe. It is held every April in Perugia, Italy. The festival is free entry for all attendees for all sessions. It is an open invitation to listen to and network with the best of world journalism. The leitmotiv is one of informality and accessibility, designed to appeal to journalists, aspiring journalists and those interested in the role of the media in society. Simultaneous translation into English and Italian is provided.

About Open Knowledge (www.okfn.org) Open Knowledge, founded in 2004, is a worldwide network of people who are passionate about openness, using advocacy, technology and training to unlock information and turn it into insight and change. Our aim is to give everyone the power to use information and insight for good. Visit okfn.org to learn more about the Foundation and its major projects including SchoolOfData.org and OpenSpending.org.

About the European Journalism Centre (www.ejc.net) The European Journalism Centre is an independent, international, non-profit foundation dedicated to maintaining the highest standards in journalism in particular and the media in general. Founded in 1992 in Maastricht, the Netherlands, the EJC closely follows emerging trends in journalism and watchdogs the interplay between media economy and media culture. It also hosts each year more than 1.000 journalists in seminars and briefings on European and international affairs.

Dispatch: Crisismappers Community needs Data Makers

Heather Leson - November 25, 2013 in Data Journalism, Events, Open Data and My Data, Open Data Partnership For Development, WG Open Government Data, Workshop

What does open data / open knowledge have to do with Crisismapping? Everything. In times of crisis, we live in open data / open government ecosystem. We seek, build and make it happen in real time – talk converts to action quickly.

On Tuesday, November 19th, the School of Data hosted a full day pre-conference training session as part of the International Conference of Crisis Mappers Conference (ICCM) in Nairobi, Kenya. The full event hosted over 110 attendees from around the world for a training offering with Knowledge/Research, Maps to Data and Mobile/Security. The Crisismappers community brings humanitarians, governmental staff, civil society practitioners, researchers, and technologists in a common, equal space. Participants work on projects ranging from human rights, anti-corruption, humanitarian response and economic development in post-conflict zones. The brilliance of cross-sector community focused on using data for their work highlights the importance that Open Knowledge Foundation as an member of the greater network. Building a global network of data makers is a one-by-one task. Our goal is to have leaders train their colleagues thus widening a circle of sharing and collaboration.

Some recent examples of our communities connecting include: Open Spending Tree Map by Donor: Foreign Aid Transparency – Faith (Philippines) and Early Results – Micromappers Yolanda (uses Crowdcrafting which was incubated at OKFN Labs).

Baking Soda with Crisis Mappers

Steve and School of Data

(Steve Kenei, Development Initiatives)

Data is just a word until we activate it. I like to call the School of Data the “Baking Soda” team. Together with key ingredients (community, problem/issue description, data sets and tool menus), they work with others to make data usable and actionable.

School of Data in session (School of Data session at ihub for ICCM)

The data track workshop sessions including using spreadsheets, cleaning data, data visualization and how to geocode. Some folks stayed in this track all day, even skipping breaks. The track started with a spreadsheet training delivered by Steve Kenei from Development Initiatives, continued with an Introduction to OpenRefine and an introduction to data visualization by Agnes Rube of Internews Kenya. The track was finished by School of Data mentor Ketty Adoch. The workshop was designed to address issues that civil society organizations have using data. One of the exciting results was the sheer concentration and intent of participants. They skipped breaks and even brought their own datasets to guide their learning.

Communities, Ideas connecting:

Ketty Adour, Fruits of Thought

Ketty Adour, Fruits of Thought

The ICCM conference, including pre-conference events, was jam packed week of maps, data, research and technology. Most of the ignite talks and panels referred to some stage of open data needs or the issues ranging from data ethics, data quality and data collection methodology. Ketty Adour – one of this years ICCM fellows – she shared her experiences on building a community mapping in Uganda using OpenStreetMap at Fruits of Thought.

Next Steps

During the self-organized sessions, together with Luis Capelo of UN OCHA , I hosted a discussion about Open Data Opportunities and Challenges. It was an exercise for the attendees to discuss Open Data and Crisismapping.

We determined a few concrete actions for the community:

  • A common data sharing space for Crisismappers interested in Humanitarian data.
  • A Crisismappers Open Data Working Group to help share impact and build momentum.
  • Training and a mentorship programs to help build skills and leadership in the field.

The Crisismappers community is over 5000 members strong with a mailing list, webinar and NING site. Do consider joining this vibrant community of maps and data makers who are at the edge of what it takes to unite policy with sheer determined actions. Also see our various Working Groups and the Open Data Partnership for Development programme.

Some additional resources:

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