Improving data literacy in Macedonia
Unfortunately, data-literacy among macedonian journalists and Civil Society Organisation (CSO) representatives is at a pretty low level. Journalists and their editors haven’t realised the potential that data journalism has to drive transparency, reveal corruption and hold government officials to account.
Stuck in their day to day activities, most of the macedonian journalists don’t even bother to try and work with data. They are overwhelmed by the scale and “complexity” of spreadsheets, have low level skills and experience with Excel and lack basic mathematical knowledge. This is absolutely not specific to Macedonian journalists, but is a problem nonetheless.
Since Freedom of information in Macedonia is guaranteed by law, the journalists and CSO members have the right for free access to information. Besides, the use of FOI requests by journalists and citizen in general is not that frequent. The ones who tried to send FOI requests to Macedonian institutions usually end up with a refusal or unsatisfactory answers.
Consequently, they have limited opportunities to realise the power that data journalism offers in revealing corruption, proving government misuse and informing the public about it in a extraordinary visual and interactive way. Data visualisations can provide great help in the storytelling process, especially when working on highly complex and time consuming investigative stories.
That’s why the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in September 2014 launched the programme on Open Data Civil Society Network in Macedonia, which focuses on the importance of transparency, accountability and open data.
They work with Metamorphosis Foundation, a local CSO tasked with implementing the programme in Macedonia, and collaborate with Open Knowledge from the UK. As part of Open Knowledge’s School of data project, School of Data – Macedonia was established, which now offers trainings, organizes meet-ups and support for everyone who is interested, including journalists, CSO members and citizen in general.
This week we will organise an event to promote our new web site schoolofdata.metamorphosis.org.mk. The UK ambassador in Macedonia, Charles Garrett, will be present. In the near future we’re planning to organize a two-day workshop on open data and datavisualisations with members of Macedonian NGOs. We will teach them how to work with data in Excel and how to use basic online tools for interactive datavisualisations including Piktochart, Infogr.am, Datawrapper, Google Fusion tables, Timewrapper, JSTimeline, etc.
Several other workshops are planned throughout the year with journalists and their editors from newsrooms across Macedonia. And we will stay available to offer online support and counseling.