In 2013, we ran the first incarnation of the Fellowship programme, which we named to be the Mentorship programme. It was a brilliant precursor to the broader Fellowship programme, and we’re still seeing great things come from the very first School of Data “mentors”.
Ketty’s Story: Evolving through Data Expeditions
Ketty Adoch is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist based in Kampala, Uganda. In 2013, inspired by a Twitter post about an upcoming online data expedition (School of Data MOOC) on global carbon emissions, Ketty joined Open Knowledge and signed up for the course. Passionate about the environment and feeling the need to expand her skill set, she found the data expedition very useful. Ketty is with the first class of the School of Data fellows.
“What I liked about it is that it involved skill sharing among the participants. I shared my data and mapping skills and learned other skills from my group. I enjoyed it so much that after that I attended three School of Data data expeditions in a row!” Ketty said.
Inspired, Ketty signed up to be a community fellow for the School of Data, and since then has been involved as a facilitator in many online and offline data expeditions and training sessions around the world, leading a mapping training session at the International Conference of CrisisMappers in Nairobi, Kenya in November of 2013. Ketty feels that these sessions have been very successful and through them a lot of interest has been generated about open data and data journalism.
“For most of my sessions, I have shared my knowledge on mapping. What feels rewarding is that afterwards people ask questions about what I shared during the session, and they want to understand more about it. People show genuine interest, and these sessions do create an impact within the communities,” she said.
The sessions have also been a good learning opportunity for Ketty. She also points out that they provide an excellent networking platform for people who want to work in the field of open data.
“You learn a lot of new skills and tools, that’s one thing. Two: you get to network and know where to get help from when you need it. For example, I can now ask for help from some of the other fellows or trainers that I met at these sessions who are proficient in a certain field that I am not so good at,” Ketty explained.
Following the data expeditions, Ketty has been working in collaboration with others on a new national data portal, www.data.ug, which runs using Open Knowledge’s CKAN, and was launched on the 2014 Open Data Day in Uganda. Using the skills she has acquired, she is now focusing on the cleaning, analysing, and visualising some of the datasets to be hosted on the site. She also hopes that through the regular meetings that have been planned this year, they will be able to to teach more data skills, present the available data better, and get the larger community in Uganda involved. Ketty is also building a community of participatory mappers in Uganda, using her GIS skills at Fruits of Thought to train citizen mappers and to develop new tools that put digital cartography within the ordinary person’s reach.
Tarek’s story: building community and teaching data literacy
Tarek Amr is a MSc. graduate in Data Mining and Information Retrieval with a decade of experience in software development. Last year, while preparing his dissertation in the UK, Tarek sought out the School of Data to hone his data visualization skills. Now back in Egypt, Tarek is an Open Knowledge ambassador and one of the first class of School of Data fellows.
As a School of Data mentor, Tarek has hosted data expeditions, workshops, and Open Data Day activities. Using his unique technical and digital media talents, Tarek is transferring knowledge and raising awareness of data skills and their importance for journalism.
“For me, I think the good thing [about these training events] was the networking, and also raising awareness about data journalism, because this term is a bit new. Whenever I speak with people working in the media industry, most of the time they are not really aware of what data journalism is.”
Tarek’s training work has helped grow the burgeoning data journalism community in the Arabic-speaking world. In the fall of 2014, Tarek and a colleague from School of Data hosted a workshop to train Welad El-Balad (a new media organization aiming to advance Egyptian journalism), and since this workshop, Welad El-Balad has been in touch to seek guidance on the creation of an in-house data journalist role.
“From our discussions with the Welad El-Balad team as well as with other journalists in the region, there seems to be a great interest in data-driven journalism. Last year, Al Jazeera and the European Journalism Centre started to translate The Data Journalism Handbook into Arabic. Online and offline Data Expeditions are also helping to introduce journalists and bloggers in the region to the importance of data journalism. Thus, we are looking forward to seeing more newspapers in the region taking serious steps towards establishing their own data teams.”
Through the work of community leaders like Tarek, Open Knowledge Egypt has experienced major growth, lifting open data out of obscurity and into public awareness. Tarek and his colleagues are fostering this awareness by creating Arabic-language tools and training materials to bring open data to a wider range of participants.