Connecting The Dots: The 2016 Global Media Forum in Bonn

Connecting The Dots: The 2016 Global Media Forum in Bonn

The internet must protect human right and privacy…The internet must give people access to education and opportunities for participation, it should be a place where people can gather information and make their voices heard. This give rise to project such as the Nigerian Follow The Money initiative which was presented here yesterday. The initiative monitor whether aid money really reaches its destination. Team members go to the villages and follow up on the promises made by the politicians. They publish their findings in easy to understand diagrams on their website” – Thomas Silberhorn, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Corporation and Development, in his keynote address at the Global Media Forum

“I forget my name, I forget my dreams, maybe we do not have a lot of power because we are nothing, but sometimes a nothing man can change a lot” these mix of Words on Piano of Aeham Ahmad, 28 years old, from the streets of Yarmouk Camp in Syria who now lives in Germany keep lingering in my heart as another forum to discuss media, freedom and values kick starts in Bonn Germany. On the count, this will be the seventh global conference honouring our Follow The Money work.

In recent times, media organizations have been battling with innovating their newsrooms,as,challenges of its freedom and values has always resonated around newsrooms Ever since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 at the Palais de Chaillot, Paris. Much reason why the Annual Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany held between June 13 – 15 had its theme around this challenges and opportunities, and welcoming 2,000 participants including media CEOs, journalists, academics, artistsentrepreneurs from 110 countries

“We need to rethink the way in which we perceive, demonstrate and spread our values.” With those words, DW Director General Peter Limbourg opened the Global Media Forum in Bonn on Monday, June 13, 2016. Looking at the long list of exceptional speakers for the event, it asserts to me that we are living in the midst of communications revolution that is already having significant effects on democracy, and as such, it will be pertinent to instill our values as journalists, or “content creators” to research with due diligence, copy after checking the facts, stop scandalizing every harmless occurrence, and make reference to sources of credible information.

Pocket FM Radio was on the side stands. Visit them at http://www.pocket-fm.com/

Pocket FM Radio was on the side stands. Visit them at http://www.pocket-fm.com/

Our values are greatly important especially as enemies of freedom of speech increases across borders. From Turkey clamping down on newsrooms who are highlighting to the world,the human right abuses of the regime; to Nigeria, where a legislature is sponsoring a bill that infringes on the freedom of speech; to Maldive government arresting journalists. This is becoming a challenge to democracy as the “fourth pillar of democracy” is becoming threatened.

Suffice to say that the forum was a congregation of media enthusiast living everyday with the believe that the media (be it the new or the traditional) would continue to serve as a watchdog for democracies, even as press freedom declined to its lowest point in 12 years, and 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys a free press, according to the Freedom House 2016 report

Most of the thoughts from speakers ranges from how media organizations can start innovating their newsrooms; privacy and security, violence against women and children, the US presidential elections, migration issues in Europe, and the relationship between media and policy makers.

Actually, I was thrilled when participants asked what the relationship of Follow The Money was, with the government of Nigeria during the panel on digital innovations coordinated by the DW Akademie. “Always flat and parallel” I have answered, as only few state agents will embrace a watchdog initiative, that demeans the bureaucracy within government institutions. Maybe that might changed in the near future, I will sure be excited!

The Panel on Standing up for Human Rights: Digital Innovations

The Panel on Standing up for Human Rights: Digital Innovations source:DW

It was not only three days of discussions, I like the fact that every closing of the day is met with social gatherings long enough for networking, meeting old friends, and chatting new courses, as well.This time around, I enjoyed the food because special considerations were given to we chicken and meat eaters,still not yet a veggie, not sure I will be one. Talking about closing, Christiana Figueres. The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) speech on ‘the role of the media’ was truly exceptional as it shaken the power of the pens that break news event “You should not just inform people on and about events, you as journalist, or content producers, should use your privilege to use news to connect the dots, to point out to the public the ramifications, and implications of the news event” Figueres said

Certainly, the freedom we all enjoy as information users are threatened, every day, as the connection with the world gets smaller and thinner, and digital technologies open our doors, to every form of air – with 6 in 7 people leaving in countries where they cannot express information, and ideas freely. Nevertheless, the lens and pens’ attitude to become impartial and objective will remain pertinent, and the words from Bonn will linger – sometimes a nothing man can change a lot, one time the peace will come if we can connect the dots!  

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Where Data Wranglers Meet: The School of Data Summer Camp

Where Data Wranglers Meet: The School of Data Summer Camp

What makes Potsdam thick? The breathtaking castles; what about Ottawa? It’s War Museum and the Rideau Canal; and what about Ibiuna? Does it even sound familiar? So this year the School of Data annual summer camp moves to Ibiuna in Sao Paulo, Brazil. With a population of 76,432, the School of Data will be adding 36 amazing participants from 24 countries in 5 continents to this small municipality. For me, it was a pleasure to be attending the 3rd summer camp in a row. Yippie! and what about this summer camp, hosted by the amazing guys at Escola de dados – lets ride!

The opening sessions on day one was grand with Dirk Slater introducing participants to what to expect in the next 5 days, followed by a breakout interaction where participants get to share why they are interested in this data work or data movement. One fascinating A-ha moment for me in my group was meeting Mariano, a tall, middle aged lawyer from Greece. “I don’t believe in working without been paid, we should find how to create business models that can pay for the good works we do. And just to let you know money motivates me” – He further said. Meeting the likes of Natalia, a Lawyer, teacher and now turned data journalist; Kabu, a new fellow from Zambia who is interested in health data because she feels the relevant datasets are not available in Zambia; Jennifer from South Africa, with a background in commercial ,now in interested in tech for social change, and working with Code for South Africa inspires her many times to continue doing the kind of work with do.

Participants at the Opening Circle

                                Participants at the Opening Circle

The “spectrogram” a facilitation type which breaks participants into groups to figure out controversial statements relevant to the data movements’ and afterward participants will have to move to a side that agrees, disagrees or in between followed, and this got participants thinking with statement ranging from if public interest should override personal privacy; collecting data about ethnicity; open society is better than equal society; data journalism takes too long to be effective; and if we can make open data without computer. These are all great thoughts as we enhance data literacy, but what are your thoughts around these questions? Feel free to add your comments at the end of this post.

Of course the summer camp can’t be more energized without the 15 minutes breaks – so much a time for you to quickly ping your loved ones, have a CAMEL cigarette ;), roll down the cliff, feed on some biscuits, and also have some coffee. “Hey guys, it’s nice to see the sun rising” exclaimed Dirk. Yes, at this time of the year, the mornings were always cold, and no thanks to the heavy storm a night before day 1 which did not allow participants like me have early morning hot bath. However, I was thrilled when Marco said a call was put through to their power holding company at 3.30 am and they came to the neighborhood 1 hr 30 minutes later to fix the electric poles that were affected by the lighting during the rain. Fantastic, right! Especially if you come from my part of the world. Oh I might be wrong, so if you know of any government servicing company in Nigeria that responds to emergencies like this swiftly, please give some thumbs up to them in the comments box below, we’ll be glad you did!

Participants at the Governance track setting up indicators for data trainings

Participants at the Governance track setting up indicators for data trainings

But can you crowdsource the Agenda for an event? That was exactly what we did after the break on day 1, with sticky notes flying around the wall on what participants would love to learn or achieve before they leave the event. Why not? There must be a reason for you travelling far down to Sao Paulo, and you must let the organizers know. The Agenda were grouped into skillshare, communications, membership, Opportunities for Collaboration, and talking about the later the next session was dedicated to knowing what School of Data is in a “standing fair mode”, another instance of speed dating where you get to know how members got started with School of Data, what the role of Open Knowledge International, and the steering committee is, and what members do. It was memorable listening to Sanders narrative on how Open Knowledge started School of Data, and its exit strategy; very captivating listening to Natalia as she patiently defined the 5 members of the steering committee while engagements with Bardhyl (Bar – deal if you need some beers ;)) of Metarmophosis  in Macedonia, and Sylvia in OK France was simply amazing.

So afterwards, was the 2 hours break which was followed by the governance track and the fellowship track. So every summer camp has a list of fellows who are embedded in their countries with different organizations to work on projects with CSOs, and journalists to achieve specific goals. The fellowship track allows fellows (this time we have 10 of them) to meet their partners, work on their deliverable, and help them curate activities they will be carrying out for the entire six month.

The Fellows track where new fellows set up a road map for their activities

The Fellows track where new fellows set up a road map for their activities

Just like you may know, talking about governance could be a tasking and unending issue among non profits, especially when the movement is a network or coalition. I remembered in Potsdam, where the governance talk started, it went into the nights and the conversation was heated up. One good thing that has happened was that the network has moved on from where it was back in 2014 to fixing its governance right, especially with an effective framework, which was consolidated on, at this summer camp. Talks at the governance session included fundraising, membership, fellowship, member support, and of course relationship with Open Knowledge International. In all, one thing remains clear that the School of Data is a small and young organization which would want to grow in a less chaotic way.

It is noteworthy that the School of Data accepts members, however the requirements you will need to look at includes you or your organization being able to establish a relationship of trust with school of data coordinators; send a plan to the steering committee, and if approved, expect to sign an MOU with the school of data. With the present 12 members, perhaps the School of Data might move into another learning year, with conversations that will shape its future for the coming year.

The closing circle at the Summer Camp

The closing circle at the Summer Camp

One week, so many sticky notes, wobbly internet (no thanks to the heavy rain), great food (No thanks to the hardworking caterers),29 skill shares: The data literacy track which started on day 2 had different skills shared by participants for one hour;and maybe no need to swim in the Itupararanga lake, as the rains were always in to the rescue. As we look forward to the next summer camp, some good memories will linger, like the energetic turkish – Pina; Guatemalan Danny the Elvis; Dirk for his opening and closing circles, and all the sharpies and sticky notes that will forever live in our memories. DATASCHULE!!!

There is  a Wiki at http://wiki.okfn.org/Summer_Camp_2016 where you can get more information about the 2016 summer camp.

Access to information, and the Data Journalism movement in Latin America

Access to information, and the Data Journalism movement in Latin America

Sao Paulo, with the 3rd-greatest concentration of buildings in the world, after New York and Hong Kong hosted the biggest conference on data journalism on May 21, 2016 in Brazil. The conference organized by Escola de dados, and NIC.br  had participants from every continent of the world, thus giving a larger context of how “informediaries” are leveraging on data in writing compelling stories.

With opening remarks by Natalia Mazotte of Escola de dados, the event was kick started by thought provoking insights by panelists on how access to information has not been upheld by government institutions. “There is a particular trend in Latin America, whereby government announces to the world that they have an open data portal, however if you check the portal, you will find it was updated last a long time ago” explained Juan Manuel of SocialTIC. But isn’t this another way of “information – washing” as journalist will be deprived of the information needed? “Journalist should not wait till governments make information public, and also do not rely on the Freedom of Information Act before you start investigating, and that is why we are journalist” Manuel further said.

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Natalia Mazotte of Escola da Dados giving opening remarks

Although this was tagged a conference, it turned out to be a series of workshops in one. I love it! Rather than the conference style gathering of people, there were hands-on knowledge exchange sessions that can help participants leapfrog from being a traditional journalist to a data journalist. Sessions that followed the tea break included data analysis for journalist facilitated by Marco Tulio of the Open Knowledge International, which put journalist through how you can use rate, percentages, mode, mean and medium to tell compelling stories and how you can secure yourself digitally as a journalist facilitated by Vadym Hudyma

The data are always out there for journalist, find them, as they are locked in excel spreadsheets, PDFs etc. So Allen Johnson wanted to publish a story on how footballers and technical advisers were earning big in Europe, he found a spreadsheet from France Football Magazine, that has the 2014 salaries of football players and their technical advisers. Voila! It was also in excel, and not PDF (so he won’t be looking for Tabula or online2pdf to convert it). All he did was to use the calculation functions to find the highest paid player, convert the currency to his local currency, and find the average amount that was paid a player. Certainly, you can hand out three different stories to your editor with this table alone, and don’t forget this makes the rule of thumb easier – Start with data and end with a story.

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Marco Tulio taking the session on Data Analysis for Journalist

“I have signed up on so many website, and while doing that I use the date of which I first joined in as my password” said Cruz Delirios, “what? That can be dangerous, and I think you should see me after this digital security for journalist session, we need to do a one on one” said Vadym who was totally stricken by Cruz utterance. As journalist, and also a data journalist, hold on a second, a data journalist, also is an investigative journalist who uses data to trail his story, do let me know by commenting below, if you have other insights.

As anyone described above, you should, No! We must use passwords that are not in the dictionary as passwords; encrypt your hard drives, there are now cheaper ways to encrypt; use longer alphanumeric (combination of alphabets and numbers) passwords, so if you are using a 7 digit password, it will take up to 9.2 days, and on average 4.6 days to crack, while if you password is 12 – digit, it will take up to 2,536 years, and on average 1,268 years to crack; cultivate the habit of putting password on your start up screen (either mobile or laptop), I just did! Stop using finger patterns to unlock your screens, patterns are mostly same for everyone; if possible, do not use fingerprints, use PIN and passphrases. Don’t just get an antivirus, always update them.

Furthermore, if you have several passwords to keep, do not save them on your laptop, or write them on your work desk, or in a piece of paper, you can save them at lastpass.com Did you just say why should a newsroom be a target? Perhaps you should read how Newsweek was compromised and how much it cost them to gain back people’s trust, if they ever! Aside this digital attacks, a journalist can be targeted for  physical threats which can be confiscation of your laptop’s, video or digital camera, midget or your backpack, as such you need to always have a backup of your hard drive (probably in the cloud); always copy out data on your video or digital camera immediately after use; and always watch out for someone behind your shoulder – you can be trailed!

You might think you will be covered by human rights law as it regards information, or as a whistle blower, but that is not the case. Even in Australia,with a freedom rating of one, meaning the best in the world, their Border Force Act of last year stated that any disclosure by any current former worker of “protected information” is punishable by up to two years in Prison which led us to the discussion or privacy and transparency at the panel that followed the data literacy workshops that took place after lunch.

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Daniel Brammati sharing his work on using data to find Maria Magdalena Tiul Ac

Is Panama Papers or Wikileaks the kind of journalism we should entrench? Shouldn’t journalist consider the motives behind finding this set of data referred to as leaks before publishing them? Fernanda Becker of Intergentes, and Joana Veron of Coding Rights says yes to the latter , and No to the first. Both largely emphasised that journalist should consider that they do not have rights that can protect them, while Vadym Hudyma reiterated the importance of engaging governments at the legislative level, in such a way that they are not allowed to pass bills that encourage their own privacy.

Absolutely, the quest for data journalism is increasing, and great works other than leaks are ongoing, as we saw in the works of Antonio Cucho who worked on tracking electoral data Ojo Publico in Peru; Daniel Villatoro mapping Data in Central America through Plaza Public;Luisa Brito engaging on Data Journalism on TV Globo in Brazil; Daniel Bramatti, using death data to find Maria Magdalena Tiul Ac who has been missing for over 1 year, 1 month and 5 days in Guatemala, and Daniela Flower’s work on Mapping LGBT fobia in Brazil on Huffpost Brazil

How Data Journalism Might Halt Feeding Peanuts to Journalists

How Data Journalism Might Halt Feeding Peanuts to Journalists

On the week of 8 – 12th and 15 – 19th in February 2016 in Abuja, I facilitated training on tracking government spending with 16 producers of popular current affairs programmes and 16 news editors from the broadcast media in a BBC Media Action supported capacity building for journalists. Nothing can be more exciting than igniting journalists passion to innovate their newsrooms, and also participating at this training were facilitators from BudgIT (One of the leading organizations using technology to hold government accountable) and Premium Times (An online media organization disrupting the media terrain in Nigeria).

 

No doubt, journalism is one of the profession that has young and vibrate women, and as confirmed the participants had a balance of gender, unlike other training have facilitated, that gender is always skewed towards the male. 60% of the participants had contact with the computer in the middle of the last decade, at the advent of Facebook, and just at the exit of excite.com and inbox.com, Certainly, our participants this time should be conversant with the new technologies. Were they? I will say yes, at least they are familiar with their newsroom consoles, Twitter and Facebook.

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Cross section of participants at one of the training batch

 

Other than their console, they were exposed to data journalism tools that can be leveraged on in scraping government budget data, from the conversion of PDFs to Excel using www.online2pdf.com ,Tabula and WebScraper. But one thing that remains clear is that many times, we see the budget data, but actually do not know when the money on the budget will be spent. So, what does a journalist do in such case? I asked, and most knew they are always the first to know, as a press release is always issued to media houses, when these funds are approved or released. So journalist can scrape the press release and find useful information for tracking government expenditure, and thus making a story out of it. Another useful tool is Google Alerts which sends instant email of keywords that has earlier been subscribed to by the journalist.

 

We all agreed, that there is always a time difference between approval and release of funds, as such the time lag keeps the journalist inquiring, and keeping the story alive. So many at the training asked, what funds do we have to keep such stories alive, in a program or in the news? In the last six months, I have trained 62 journalists from the print media, and broadcast, the same question keep re-occurring, and this time, I was almost told to change the training topic to how to write funding proposals for data journalism. Perhaps, this can stop the popular “Kwa” mentalism!

 

Oludotun Babayemi, a School of Data Fellow takes journalist through overcoming challenges in the industry

Oludotun Babayemi, a School of Data Fellow takes journalist through overcoming challenges in the industry

As more of the traditional broadcasters are now moving into data journalism, many are still incapacitated due to media ownership, availability of knowledge resources, skill gaps and a peer review center where knowledge can be exchanged on the go. Each of these training always draw us up to the solution, perhaps, as Connected Development [CODE] is working on its citizen lab for activists and journalists, it will be better placed to tackle some of this challenges.

 

As someone who has a background in Information Management, I always appreciate the media, and those that stand by the consoles to inform Africa, and through this we believe the console can turn around, educate, inform and impact our society. With more data been churned out everyday, and more funding in the direction of data journalism, I look forward to taking another set of interaction on data journalism with 24 news editors from Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Adamawa, Kaduna and Plateau, in April, let’s keep the consoles jingling!  

Data Revolution in Africa: A Key to Africa’s Progress

Data Revolution in Africa: A Key to Africa’s Progress

The High Level Conference on Data Revolution held from March 27 to March 30, 2015 at the UN Conference Centre in Addis Ababa. It was hosted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The main reason why I attended this programme was to participate in the side event on rebooting open data in Africa.

Connected Development attends High Level conference on Open Data

Participants at the high level conference of Data Revolution in Africa

After hours on deliberation, the key action areas identified by the open data community for the input to the African data consensus were- Geospatial data/geo-referencing of data, use of satellite data (agriculture, climate change ­ increase capacity of countries to use this data & open this up ­ most of these data is available (sold) outside the continent),  Open budget data,  identification of how municipalities can be given opportunity to analyse & collect data ­ local urban governance, giving power to NGOs in addition to building their capacity on Open Data,  Starting with the champions within governments, Respecting privacy & sensitive datasets, Knowledge and awareness around licensing, Working with research institutes on what data can be given to the public, Working on and making “operational data” open e.g. how many nurses per hospital,  Licensing of public data ­ needs to be “Open” by law.

On the role of data communities it was noted that data communities should work more with governments, private sector and research institutes, ensuring more communication and coordination between all data communities, work with the “excluded”, have a more integrated approach with other data communities, e.g. extractives, agriculture, not silos, work with governments to offer our expertise on open data ­ an opportunity such as this to feed to the HLC is critical, understanding and facilitating between different types of government data (e.g. government ministries, departments and agencies), driving the demand for data which should create ownership, use, add value to data, involve the

media who will communicate to citizenry, champion capacity building, work with community radio stations which will be good tools for grassroots awareness & advocacy as well as other actors/hybrid methods for disseminating, work with technocrats in governments, contributing to international data communities, champion governments on timeliness of data released: “Data delayed is data denied”.

At the local level, NGOs in developing countries like Nigeria, citing Connected Development  [CODE] have taken advantage of legalized opportunities available to promote the knowledge and use of Open Data in Nigeria. Through the Follow The Money platform, CODE has utilized the Freedon of Information Act to request information meant for public knowledge from private and government organizations to ensure accountability in the use of public funds. The most recent campaign of Follow The Money is the #WomenCookStoves campaign which tracks the 9.2

Billion NGN (US$49.8 million) released b the Nigerian Government for 750,000 clean cookstoves and 18,000 wonderbags for rural women.

The benefits of open data are numerous of which one of them is promoting accountability and transparency which end up boosting the development of countries in Africa. To achieve a world where data is open, it is important to build partnerships both locally and globally. As the post 2015 development agenda is being deliberated on, it is important to put open data at the forefront of the table to ensure that it is prioritized.

A big THANK YOU to the World Wide Web Foundation for sponsoring my trip to the HLC on Data Revolution. More information about the conference can be found Here