Looking back: The Data Bootcamp in Ghana
After a successful Data Bootcamp in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania we moved to Accra, Ghana to rinse and repeat. Like Tanzania, Ghana has started an Open Government Data Initiative. They committed to it in 2010 and commissioned the National Information Technology Agency to drive the program. Currently a Open Government Data platform is in the making at data.gov.gh. However, little is to be seen except a mockup.
Compared to Tanzania we found an excited and engaged good mix of journalists, civil society representatives and technologists. While most of the participants were from Ghana, we had one participant coming in from Benin and a Ph.D student from Berkeley researching the Ghana Diaspora – who happened to be in town. We guided around 60 participants through the intensive 3 day program – kicking them off with basic spreadsheet skills and taking them all the way through Google Refine to creating Visualisations with Fusion Tables. This was a long stretch for the journalists and civil society organisers. During the workshop participants formed a total of 7 groups to work on specific stories and applications ranging from traffic accidents to public procurement.
On the third day the participants started teaching themselves: One person created a tutorial on how to import point of interest data into excel while others took the stage to show how to create simple websites and embed Fusion Table graphs and maps.
After three days and two nights of intensive work the Bootcamp ended in short presentations of the projects. The session started with great excitement and provided valuable and critical feedback for all programs. Awarding winners was not an easy task and so the African Media Initative and Worldbank Institute – who funded the prize – decided to ramp up the prize money and distribute it to more projects. A clear winning team focussed on extractive industries and whether the revenue generated helps the communities where the extraction takes place. 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”. Two project teams were awarded for finding the most interesting stories to take them further: Hospital Coverage and Road Accidents. Both discovered interesting stories in their data and started researching.
The three intensive days left everyone excited and exhausted. Most of the people came into the room knowing one or two other participants and connected with like-minded people of different skills. As a result the HacksHackers chapter in Accra increased it’s participants from 15 to over 90 at the end of the Bootcamp. We’ll keep an eye on further development in Ghana.