Written by VirtualKenya
January 09, 2013
Data Journalism boot-camps have been defined as project-based 'data literacy' training, over three-days, where journalists and civic activists are teamed-up with developers and designers to use public data to build experimental civic media apps, websites, or services that empower citizens to better understand the world around them. Each participant is assigned a desktop computer, given access to powerful datasets, and one-on-one mentoring. The program begins with basic techniques for finding and extracting data from online sources, moving on to using spreadsheets to structure and clean the data, and then tools to visualise or transform the data into narratives that make it easy for the public to understand.
The Virtual Kenya Team (Upande Ltd) was invited as Geo-Data Specialists to join global expert trainers and thought leaders in terms of data driven journalism from Africa Media Initiative, Code4Africa, the Open Institute, O'Reilly Media's Radar, the World Bank's Open Finances team, and a range of leading data journalists. The Virtual Kenya team has been on an ongoing mission to promote use of open data and open source platforms to increase access and use of readily available resources that are either previously unknown to the public or underutilized due to lack of understanding, this data journalism boot-camps fit this description perfectly and that's why the team had no hesitation to participate when the invitation was extended.
Data Journalism Bootcamps
"Good data journalism is hard, because good journalism is hard. It means figuring out how to get the data, how to understand it, and how to find the story. Sometimes there are dead ends, and sometimes there’s no great story. After all if it were just a matter of pressing the right button, it wouldn’t be journalism. But that’s what makes it worthwhile, and — in a world where our lives are increasingly data — essential for a free and fair society." — Chris Taggart, OpenCorporates
The African Media Initiative(AMI) and World Bank Initiative came together in an effort to bridge the gap between journalists that create news stories and effective data driven applications by developers that can make this stories telling factual and even more effective. This initiative kicked off in Kenya in January 24th 2012 spearheaded by Justin Arenstein Chief Digital Strategist AMI . The Upande Ltd team was honored to be part of this efforts that have been dubbed Data Journalism Boot-camps. There was a series of five events in five different countries in 2012 starting from Nairobi,Kenya they went on to South Africa, Moldova, Tanzania, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Tunisia.
The Boot-camps are preceded by a Media Leaders and Owners Roundtable to brainstorm on effective ways to best make use of available resources and skills within each region and chart way forward on how to effectively work together, eliminate duplication of efforts and promote data driven journalism. The Boot-camps themselves are a three day affair that draws from the Media Houses and Developers to get them to work together on applications which will be pitched at the end of the Bootcamps and winners awarded a cash prize.The participants are taken through a series of exercises that are designed to help them learn to find, extract and analyse data to better tell their stories.
Upande Ltd were part of the panel of trainers in Singapore, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Moldova, Tanzania and Ghana. Below is a report on some of the bootcamps.
This event was held in the Dar Es Salaam Institute of Technology, hosted by Hassan Mshinda and George Mulamula of The Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH).
The first day: Brought together 40 journalists and developers
Participants of the three day boot-camp
It was kicked off by general introduction to Boot-camp by both the hosts and Craig Hammer of the World Bank Initiative. Justin Arenstein then introduced the participants to what Data driven journalism entails with examples of stories and applications from organisations around the world that have effectively used data driven journalism globally using readily available sources.
Justin Arenstein, Craig Hammer and Michael Bauer Facilitators of the Bootcamps
Amy Sedghi from The Guardian next engaged the participants on how to use spreadsheets effectively to better organise data, filter our what might not be needed to demystify statistical data understanding and how they can easily analyse data themselves with an intensive hands on step by step program.After which Craig Hammer of the World Bank Institute encouraged them to break up into thematic groups to start working on the ideas for the stories to be submitted as entries.
Amy Sedghi from The Guardian introducing the participants to Data Manipulation through spreadsheets
After breaking up into the groups identified, they were taken through Data Interrogation tools, Data Portals and Basic Scraping by both Justin and Michael Bauer from Open Knowledge Foundation. As a build up to the introduction to spreadsheet use, wrapping up the day was Mark De Blois from Upande Ltd, who introduced the participants to Google Refine a tool designed to help used 'clean up' data to easliy and quickly eliminate errors and better organise the
Mark De Blois and Luchiri Omoto of Upande Ltd taking participants through visualization techniques
Day Two: Was deep dive into use of Google Refine by Mark De Blois and a gentle introduction to Data Visualization using Google Fusion Tables and Maps APIs using plenty of examples from how this was achieved in the Virtual Kenya platform from readily available sources and how data from this sources can be combined effectively and help enhance creative visualization that would better teller a story from statistical sources that can get overwhelming for ordinary users who don't have expert data manipulation techniques. From several Google Earth tours used voice overs hosted on the Virtual Kenya platform, to simple dashboards that can help compare budget data from different districts to help understand the disparities to how to create simple Map A.P.Is and how to better work together so that more data can be liberated and eventually build a platform as robust as Virtual Kenya or the K.O.D.I platform as they don't have an Open Data Portal of their own.
Amy Sedghi and Justin gave generous tips using personal practical examples on Expert Data Journalism reverse-engineers. Risha Chande of Twaweza took the participants through the Budget Explorer showing them how to interrogate this data to get information that might be 'in your face' to better educate citizens through information that they might have mind boggling. They then broke into their groups and Michael Bauer took them through what it means to create your own Application and what would make it a miss or a hit. They were then given time to work on their applications.
Day Three: After a walk through again of the competition rules wrapping up of Visualization techniques by Bernadette Ndege and Luchiri Omoto using Google Fusion Tables and Maps API, the rest of the day was dedicated to group work and working on presentations of their applications to the judging panel. the room was bubbling with great ideas and many viable ideas were floated but most needed alittle more time to be streamlined there was no clear winner it was the decision of the panel to award three groups. The three groups were finally awarded were:
1) Promise Tracker: A platfrom tracking promised made by politicians and status of those whether they were fulfilled or not.
2) Direct Foreign Investment Tracker
3) Land Grabbing Monitoring and Tacking Tool
And as the curtain fell the participants who attended the full three day sessions were awarded certificates of attendance
As with the other sessions this locked off with a Media Leaders and Owners breakfast at the Movenpick Ambassadeur Hotel for a brain storm on what gaps exist to make data driven journalism a reality in Ghana followed by lunch at the same venue on 23rd October 2012. The Data Boot-Camps running from 24th to 26th October 2012 were held at CSIR Institute of Scientific and Technology Information (INSTI).
Justin Arenstein and Eric Akumiah during the Media Leaders Roundtable at the Movenvpick. Accra
Bringing together over 60 Software developers and Journalists to acquire share skills on how to find, extract data and analyse public data to better tell their stories.Eric Akumiah of National Information Technology Assocation (NITA) - the host organisation officially opened the training on 24th October and welcomed all participants challenging them to open minded and be willing to exchange ideas even from rival media houses.
Craig Hammer (World Bank Institute) gave a brief walk through on what they would expect for the three days and Justin Arenstein (African Media Initiative) introduced the participants to what data driven journalism is and how it differs from ordinary reporting of stories and news articles that are not backed up by data giving many practical examples on how Media Houses across the world have used to this to tell better stories and in the long run improve/streamline revenue.
Craig Hammer and Justin Arenstein welcoming the participants to the Accra Bootcamp
Nana Akyaa Amoah of Google gave a demo on hows various Google Platforms are already being used on the upcoming elections to effectively engage users and broadcast information.
Alex Plough from the Center for Investigative Journalism next took participants through use of spreadsheets and how to make sense of statistical data and use those facts to back up stories. It was refreshing to see journalists who previously had serious reservations on numbers happily engaging in exercises and starting to gain confidence that they can handle statistics on their own and derive facts to better tell their stories.
Justin Arenstein then gave a demos on data interrogation tools and how to use them practically, Michael Bauer from the Open Knowledge Foundation introducing them to existing data sources, data portals and basic data scraping skills.The participants were guided by Craig Hammer on how to from thematic groups to start discussions and brainstorm on ideas that could win them a cash prize at the end of the Boot-camp. The day was wrapped up by Michael Bauer with a demo and examples on how to build your own App.
The second day began with Bernadette Ndege and Luchiri Omoto of Upande Ltd introducing participants to Data Visualizations and various mapping tools. Learning how to use Google Refine to clean up data and better organise the data they need was a prelude to the actual hands on sessions on how to translate spreadsheet data into Maps, Charts using Google Fusion Tables, Google Mapping Platforms/APIs and other Visualization tools to make facts and numbers more exciting "A picture tells a thousand words" and this exercises were geared towards showing all numbers don't have to be represented as they are and many existing tools can help explain data more visually. After the hands on sessions the rest of the day was dedicated to giving the groups enough time to consolidate thoughts on the applications they would be presenting he next day.
Luchiri of Upande Ltd taking all through how quick and easy it is to transfer data to color maps or charts using a participant
The final day began with a revision of the rules of competition and general guildelines from both Craig Hammer and Justin Arenstein. Some much needed basic rules and tips on expert data journalism from Alex Plough and how to reverse-engineer a data story. The groups were then given much needed space to wrap up their presentations for the final pitching sessions.
Breaking Up Into Group Sessions
During the pitching sessions a few teams distinguished themselves with well thougg out ideas with realistic scopes and already developed work plans and they were awarded as follows?1) Team working on extractive industries and whether the revenue generated helps the communities where the extraction takes place. dubbed "Where My Money Dei?"2) Two runners-up worked with public procurement data and on a platform to track government manifestos – “It is a contract the government makes with us – the people”. The other two project teams who's ideas had great potential that were awarded but had not conceptualized a proper workplan and were given more time to fully them further were: Hospital Coverage and Road Accidents.One of the other interesting thing to come out of the bootcamps is 7 data sets were liberated and code fro scraping data was shared.
Reginold Roystom a PhD student from Berkely and System integrations engineer Jean Luc Nta à Nwamekang who traveled from Benin to Ghana to attend
All in all these were very intense three day events with follow up planned for this coming year that left both journalists and developers alike with a whetted appetite for collaboration across the board to ensure data driven journalism becomes a reality sooner rather than later