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