December 2014 saw the Sustainable Development Policy Institute and Alif Ailaan launch the Pakistan Data Portal at the 30th Annual Sustainable Development Conference. The portal, built using CKAN by Open Knowledge, provides an access point for viewing and sharing data relating to all aspects of education in Pakistan.
A particular focus of this project was to design an open data portal that could be used to support advocacy efforts by Alif Ailaan, an organisation dedicated to improving education outcomes in Pakistan.
The Pakistan Data Portal (PDP) is the definitive collection of information on education in Pakistan and collates datasets from private and public research organisations on topics including infrastructure, finance, enrollment, and performance to name a few. The PDP is a single point of access against which change in Pakistani education can be tracked and analysed. Users, who include teachers, parents, politicians and policy makers are able to browse historical data can compare and contrast it across regions and years to reveal a clear, customizable picture of the state of education in Pakistan. From this clear overview, the drivers and constraints of reform can be identified which allow Alif Ailaan and others pushing for change in the country to focus their reform efforts.
Pakistan is facing an education emergency. It is a country with 25m children out of education and 50% girls of school age do not attend classes. A census has not been completed since 1998 and there are problems with the data that is available. It is outdated, incomplete, error-ridden and only a select few have access to much of it. An example that highlights this is a recent report from ASER, which estimates the number of children out of school at 16 million fewer than the number computed by Alif Ailaan in another report. NGOs and other advocacy groups have tended to only be interested in data when it can be used to confirm that the funds they are utilising are working. Whilst there is agreement on the overall problem, If people can not agree on its’ scale, how can a consensus solution be hoped for?
Alif Ailaan believe if you can’t measure the state of education in the country, you cant hope to fix it fix it. This forms the focus of their campaigning efforts. So whilst the the quality of the data is a problem, some data is better than no data, and the PDP forms a focus for gathering quality information together and for building a platform from which to build change and promote policy change— policy makers can make accurate decisions which are backed up.
The data accessible through the portal is supported by regular updates from the PDP team who draw attention to timely key issues and analyse the data. A particular subject or dataset will be explored from time to time and these general blog post are supported by “The Week in Education” which summarises the latest education news, data releases and publications.
CKAN was chosen as the portal best placed to meet the needs of the PDP. Open Knowledge were tasked with customising the portal and providing training and support to the team maintaining it. A custom dashboard system was developed for the platform in order to present data in an engaging visual format.
As explained by Asif Mermon, Associate Research Fellow at SDPI, the genius of the portal is the shell. As institutions start collecting data, or old data is uncovered, it can be added to the portal to continually improve the overall picture.
The PDP is in constant development to further promote the analysis of information in new ways and build on the improvement of the visualizations on offer. There are also plans to expand the scope of the portal, so that areas beyond education can also reap its’ benefits. A further benefit is that the shell can then be be exported around the world so other countries will be able to benifit from the development.
The PDP initiative is part of the multi-year DFID-funded Transforming Education Pakistan (TEP) campaign aiming to increase political will to deliver education reform in Pakistan. Accadian, on behalf of HTSPE, appointed the Open Knowledge Foundation to build the data observatory platform and provide support in managing the upload of data including onsite visits to provide training in Pakistan.