Data is now available online, but what next? This is the throbbing question on the mind of open data stakeholders, both from the supply and demand side of it.
As the the fight for transparency and accountability in government keeps going with the help of open data, Nigerians are doing their share and innovating in that area. New initiatives around open data, open government, open education, open access… are appearing in Nigeria. But people are still used to the traditional ways of getting the government to listen to the citizens : unions, town hall meetings, protests, etc.
How do we connect with citizens, civil society organisations (CSOs), journalists, NGOs and entrepreneurs and get them to take advantage of the available data? Monitoring the way the government works, driving advocacy, improving their activities and in turn the economy are all potential benefits of making use of the data, but the message still need to be spread. Thankfully, as a 2015 School of Data fellow, I can tap into the great School of Data community of people working on improving data literacy.
So what did we do? Simple : Our first step was to organize a data meetup. Called “Data + Drinks”, it was aimed at raising awareness, mapping new and existing open data initiatives and assessing the needs of the community. We invited individual citizens, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), journalists, and entrepreneurs. They are interested in solving social problems in agriculture, education and other areas, using data in their advocacy and journalism.
‘Have you heard of open data? Come and let’s talk about it’
On the 27th of June, the day of the event the organisers were tense as it had started raining and this was our first awareness event with no prize or certificate (like our usual hackathons and trainings). This time it was merely an informal talk about open data and its benefits. Yet, the enthusiasm and participation were impressive, as 56 people braved the rain to attend. Among them, 23% were CSOs and NGOs, 48% entrepreneurs and students, 5% Government representative and 2% journalists.
Members of the CSO
While 60% of them had heard of Open data, the 40% left had never heard of it. A few of them just walked into the event by pure curiosity: ‘what is this open data is about, is it a project or a tool?’
One of the participants, a well-known regional activist, wondered:
“Why all the investment in collection and releasing of data and how does it affect me as an individual or change all the fundamental issues we have in Nigeria?”
As an answer to that question and many others, we took them through the journey of what open data is and its benefits to their various activity using both international and local success stories.
Mapping their interests and challenges
Of course stick-ons where involved! The participants documented their area of interest, their experience with data and the challenges they are facing working with it. They were generally more interested in how open data can help advocacy activities, improve the educational sector, help farmers and journalism. Many of them were unaware of the places where they could find the data they need, so data sourcing and collection was a major challenge. Another issue was working with data: analysing, visualizing and making use of it.
These findings helped us understand the community better and will help us design more focused trainings and engagements in the future.
So far so good! Now that we had a successful first strike at breaking the ice, future open data hangouts promise to be better. We are going to address the challenges they shared with us. We grouped the participants following their areas of interest and will continue to share useful resources with them. A Data expedition will be organised in August and an open data party will follow in November. All these events are aimed at building a data literate community in Nigeria. See more at #dataplusdrinks.
- Chart made with Piktochart