This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. iWatch Africa and Lesotho Open Data Initiative received funding through the mini-grant scheme by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, to organise events under the Equal Development theme. This is a joint report produced by Gideon Sarpong and Makhamisa Senekane: their biographies are included at the bottom of this post. It has been reposted from the iWatch Africa website.
iWatch Africa in Ghana sought to drive a discussion about how technology and open data could promote equal development. Twenty participants were selected across the country to mark the event in Ghana which was viewed by over 5.000 people via live stream.
The iWatch Africa Data Day event focused on four main themes;
- The importance of open data in promoting gender equality in Ghana
- Negative effects of violence and discrimination against women
- Discussions about innovative tools to be adopted and deployed by session participants in promoting gender equality
- Workshop on how an online interactive data explorer can help open data on gender-based violence and discrimination and promote gender equality in Ghana
Meanwhile, on the 2nd March 2019, Lesotho hosted its inaugural Open Data Day event. This event was hosted by the National University of Lesotho, in Maseru. The theme of the event was “Open Data for Sustainable Development”. The keynote speaker at the event was Dr. Makhamisa Senekane; who is the Lecturer at the National University of Lesotho. Topics that were discussed for this inaugural Open Data Day event included:
- Open Science
- Open Data for Sustainable Development
- Open Contracting
- Smart Contracts
The major obstacle to the use of open data to reduce violence and discrimination against women and girls in Ghana is the reluctance of the Ministry of Gender and the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) to regularly publish relevant data on gender-based violence and discrimination, a frustration well expressed during the conference.
As of March 2019, the Ministry had failed to make relevant data on violence and discrimination against women available to all Ghanaians. This is a contributing factor for iWatch Africa’s decision to deploy an interactive data explorer to fill in the huge hole created by the State.
iWatch Africa marked the Open Data Day event in Accra by officially issuing a call for participation with specific emphasis on how new technologies and open data can reduce violence and discrimination against women and girls in Ghana.
Gideon Sarpong, iWatch Africa’s Director of Policy and News, delivered a short speech on the main theme: the importance of Open Data in promoting gender equality in Ghana. Mr. Sarpong argued that,” data is critical to making informed policy decisions” when it comes to fighting gender based violence and discrimination” and called on the Ministry of Gender to help drive the conversation by publishing all relevant data.
Mr. Sarpong also led a session to explore how an online interactive data explorer could help promote equal development. Mr. Sarpong demonstrated how the platform would visualize inputted data gathered by over 60 field volunteers currently working with iWatch Africa.
The interactive platform, he argued will “explore the measurement and standardisation of all gender-based violence and discrimination cases using an online unified gauge with composite indicators. These indicators will include severity metrics and solution progress metrics.”
Mr. Sarpong also added that, “the technology will provide a platform where citizens and global stakeholders can relate with gender based violence data in Ghana by humanizing the data through storytelling.”
After a practical session of his presentation, participants held on open forum on how innovative tools can be adopted and deployed by session participants in promoting gender equality.
Ms Teta Kebeh Zubah, guest speaker and Director of Aid for Girls and Children Foundation also spoke about the negative impact of violence and discrimination against women. Ms. Zubah encouraged participants to take firm positions against SGBV insisting that participants should be ready to speak up and defend women’s rights at all times.
In Lesotho, participants of the event held a discussion of the modalities of promoting the use of data science in both the public and private sectors of Lesotho after the presentations. It was resolved that the interim committee should be formed and be tasked with the responsibility of advancing Open Data policies and practices in Lesotho, together with building a vibrant Open Data community in Lesotho. The committee consists of the following members:
- Mr. Joshua Takalimane (President)
- Dr. Lerato Mohapi (Deputy President)
- Ms. ‘Makhoarai Mohapi (Treasurer)
- Ms. Mothepane Lenko (Secretary General)
- Dr. Makhamisa Senekane ( Spokesperson)
- Mr. Kito Pooe (Deputy Spokesperson)
Conclusions and Lessons Learnt
Participants of the Open Data event in Accra agreed to the following resolutions as key focus for iWatch Africa in 2019:
- Resolution by session participants to work towards empowering women and girls who are victims of violence and discrimination.
- Resolution by session participants to become ambassadors and drivers of accountability for gender discrimination and abuse of women and girls.
The name Gender Force was adopted for this nucleus group that will focus on the use of technology and open data to promote equal development in Ghana.
Participants of Maseru Open Data Day event made the following resolutions:
- The establishment of an interim committee consisting of six members This committee is tasked with advocating for the adoption and use of open data to address societal problems in Lesotho, and the registration of Lesotho Open Data Initiative as an NGO
- Organizing workshops to capacitate stakeholders (including National Statistics Office) about the adoption and use of Open Data for sustainable development
- Hosting of monthly Open Data meetups
- Hosting of annual mapathon competitions
- Hosting of annual datathon competitions (with specific focus on the use of Open Data for sustainable development)
- Exploration of open science collaboration with UNESCO and African Open Science Platform
Gideon Sarpong, iWatch Africa
Gideon Sarpong is a media practitioner with over seven years experience in data, investigative and policy journalism. Gideon is currently the Policy and News Director at iWatch Africa. His major role includes developing news strategy for correspondents across Ghana, as well as designing project and policy focus for the organisation. He is an author with over eight publications; a fellow of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Thomson Reuters Foundation, Commonwealth Youth Program (DYLP) and Bloomberg Data for Health Program. Gideon holds a degree in economics from the University of Cape Coast and PgD in Policy Journalism and Media Studies from the University of Zambia. He is a firm believer in the use of data and technology for development in Africa.
Makhamisa Senekane (PhD), Lesotho Open Data Initiative
Makhamisa Senekane is a Lecturer in the Department of Physics and Electronics, National University of Lesotho. He has obtained his B.Eng in Electronics Engineering from the National University of Lesotho, his MSc.Eng in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cape Town, and his PhD in Physics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is a lifetime member of Golden Key International Honour Society. He is a Data Science researcher who believes in the power of data in general and Open Data in particular to transform the lives of Africans through sustainable development.