Code for Ghana celebrates Open Data Day tracking public money flows

This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2017. On Saturday 4 March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 44 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by SPARC, the Open Contracting Program of Hivos, Article 19, Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. This event was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open contracting and tracking public money flows theme.

This year, Code for Ghana organised their Open Data Day event at Mobile Web Ghana. The theme for the event was “Open Contracting and tracking public money flows”. Open contracting involves analysing government contract data to have a better understanding of how government spend public funds. We had a lot of open contracting resources from Open-Contracting.org. This helped the entire team to understand the concept and its importance in increasing transparency and accountability in the governance of a country.

Florence Toffa, project coordinator of Code for Ghana, did an introductory presentation on Open Contracting. To about 98% of the attendees, open contracting was a new concept and this was the first time they tried their hands on datasets related to open contracting. Participants were introduced to the ‘what’, the benefits and ‘why’ open contracting should be embraced by everyone if we want to get rid of corruption in our society. Moreover, about 15 out of the 20 attendees were new to data scraping, data analysis and data visualisation.

Introduction to D3.JS

The participants were taken through a training session in D3.JS by David Lartey (software developer). D3.js is a JavaScript library for manipulating documents based on data. They were taught the basics of the language and how to make some interesting visualisations.

Data Scraping

Shadrack Boadu (software developer and data enthusiast) also taught data scraping. He introduced the participants to two ways of scraping data using Google sheets and tabular. He talked about the importance of cleaning the data and converting it into a useable format to facilitate accurate data analysis and representations.

Before breaking out into various groups, Code for Ghana provided datasets on Government budget (2015 – 2016), Developmental projects procurement and Ghana health service data. The next task was for the participants to combine their skills to come up with relevant insights and visualisations.

The Open Data Day Projects 

The first team (Washington) presented a visualisation (pie chart) on the procurement of the Ghana health Service for the year 2016. Their visualisation gave insights on the volumes of procurement of the Ghana health service. See visualisation:

The second team (Terrific) designed a series of visualisations. These visualisations included the state of developmental projects in Ghana and sources of developmental projects in Ghana. See images below:

 

Team Meck, the third team, developed a database [web platform] for all the government projects from 2002 to 2016. From the database, one could easily key in a few keywords and bring up a particular result. Unfortunately, the team was not able to complete the web platform on the day.

The fourth team, team Rex after cleaning their data, came up with a visualisation representing the overview of developmental projects. Their project focused on government project success, sources of government funding and project allocations that are done by consultants.

The final team, team Enock developed a web app that visualised government contracts. They focused on analysing procurement contracts from the Ghana health service.

After the presentations, the judges for the event Mr Nehemiah Attigah (Co-founder of Odekro), Mr Wisdom Donkor from National Information Technology Agency (NITA) gave their verdicts. The judges spoke about the importance of open data and the role it plays in the development of transparency and accountability in the Ghanaian society. They also emphasised the need for the participants to always present data in a way that paints an accurate picture and also visualising information that can be easily digested by society. The best three projects were awarded prizes.

Learnings

Our takeaway from the event is: one day is usually too short to develop a sustainable project. So some of the teams are still working on their projects. For some of the youths, it was an eyeopener. They never knew the importance of data and how it shapes the future of development in the country. To these youth, the event was a success because they gained valuable skills that they would build on.

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