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May we Fetch you Some Data Skills? Exactly, at the Open Data Day in Abuja

- March 8, 2015 in Events

While everyone else whines about more training time for tools to can improve their data skills at our last open data party in Abuja, we did something about it at the Open Data Day in Abuja, on Saturday, February 21, 2015: 2 hours, 10 skill shares, 10 facilitators, 72 registered participants, and view the screenshot below to read what some of our participants said at the end of the event.


Tagged a skill share day that kicked off at 11a.m. it could not have been a wrong day to chose for this event, as 30 minutes before start of event, power was interrupted, and to make it worse, some part of the facility was going through renovation, Nevertheless, it began with an insanely charming activist from Devnovate/ Social Good Nigeria, Esther Agbarakwe, handing each of the participants a list of what to expect, and how the minutes are going to roll by in a flash – 2 hours will soon be over!

Surprisingly, the participants remain excited as we chose the first five skill shares that will run for the first hour (in a world cafe system). No thanks to our facilitators, who quickly had their laptops to run for next one hour without power. The skill shares for the hour were – Data Analysis using Excel Spreadsheet, Data Coding, using Google Spreadsheet for collaboration, Facilitation Skills and Community Building Skills. “It was quite intriguing to learn some simple skills around analysis with excel, been having headache around this all this while until this 15 minutes session” said one of the participants.


While the heat of the sun started settling in, it was quite obvious that the every 15 minutes change to another skill share for the participants became an exercise that will soon be gone. A new set of skill shares were introduced after 1 hour 15 minutes. “How come we already run through an hour and 15 minutes, that was in a dash” exclaimed Oladotun Fadeyiye. New skill shares included using infographics, using twitter for good, funding mechanisms, using ArCGIS for mapping, creating great blogging website.


Yusuf Suleiman taking on ARCGIS for mapping


Two hours fifteen minutes went by, and we were impressed at some of the ingenious ways our facilitators came up with, to teach without power! Did BRCK come to the rescue? No, not yet, it was a short time, so we got all laptops fully charged, so that by the time we finished, all laptops battery would be beeping. Internet came from shared sticks, and also I saw a facilitator using practically online screen shots for demonstration, making look like he was browsing – how intelligent!

As it was a short time, participants were instructed to scribble their questions on sticky notes, to be read at plenary, after the “party’ was over. We had questions like why is it important to code data, how can a stammer facilitate, how secured is it to share files with Google Doc, Can I use the Google Drive if I do not have a Gmail account. Had suggestions like can we more time for the skill share next time – like dedicating one hour to a particular topic, thus taking us to the advanced skills.


School of Data stickers up for grabs in a Thank you format to all Participants


At the end of the event, despite the fact that I had to fix laptops battery that were running out, collect sticky notes, shared sweeties and stickers, make sure sugar and energy drinks were available, tried blowing out the heat from participants sweat, Little said I would make a great concierge. We kept our cool and bantered with participants, and have useful connections, admittedly largely at getting feed backs. When it is time for another data skill share, I will be prepared to serve. My first question is going to be whether participants miss their homes during the skill share hours ;)

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Breaking Borders: The #OpenData Party in Accra Ghana

- December 31, 2014 in Events

In the last series of our advocacy on Open Data through capacity building, we finally had a data clinic session at the Asa Royal Hotel in Accra, Ghana on Tuesday, December 9, 2014 a coincidence with the International Anticorruption Day, and CSOs in Accra Ghana weren’t left out. Why did we try taking this gospel to Ghana? We had enjoyed close collaboration and relationship with start ups and NGOs in Ghana, and for them, one of the drawbacks in finding data is the unavailability of a freedom of information act, or the access to information act.

Just like we have seen in Nigeria, NGOs and activist seem not familiar with data pipelines or what we refer to as the data management processes, likewise basic tools that can be used in analyzing data. Unlike Nigeria, the transparency and accountability [T&A] movement in Ghana is coordinated under the STARGHANA project. Thus creating an ecosystem of groups working in the T&A component of the Open Data movement. “Two years ago, I was part of a team that initiated the SMS reporting on service delivery in the health sector, however, I am not sure how much the system is working anymore” explained Joseph Senyo, National Director of Programmes, Community and Family Aid Foundation

Open Data Party in Accra Ghana

Participants at the Open Data event in Accra Ghana

While going through finding data, it was interesting to know that Nigeria has more datasets available online than Ghana, as most of the participants couldn’t figure out where to find the budget data of the country, although some mentioned the ministry of finance, but surprisingly we couldn’t get budget data from this website. Nevertheless, the country national statistics online portal is a one – stop shop for datasets in the country, and only one of the participants knew this existed. Analyzing using Microsoft Excel, and Google Spreadsheets was an eye – opener for participants, as most of them requested to know how this can be applicable in their various works.

While it was important to drive this conversation forward, outside the training sessions, the participants were already thinking about a 3 –day event that could bring together government, NGOs and other activist in the coming year. But, our trip to Accra would not have been complete without taking some time at the iSpace (it was a women in technology day, and we had ladies) and the LaBadi Beach – it is known that trainings can also be complemented with ice breakers on the beach – and same we did, and fortunately for us – it was the reggae night.

Getting  instant feedbacks from participants

Getting instant feedbacks from participants

“We would have like to have more days of training, as the little minutes I spent was quite educative, especially the use of analysis tools, thus making me to know how important data is to my various monitoring and evaluation work” said Mensah Ileom of Inspire Africa. Actually, I have seen more NGO participants looking towards how data gathering can also help them in monitoring and evaluation, aside using it for advocacy, and monitoring service delivery.


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Instigating the Rise of Demand for Data: The #OpenData Party in Abuja

- December 8, 2014 in Events

So what happens when you have 102 Nigerians representing all the six regions of the country in   Abuja to teach and learn about what they can use data or open data for? “It was an action – packed, idea generating, brain storming, mind grooming which will help me in my advocacy as well as in tracking how the budget of my country is being spent, a challenging and yet fun – filled event” as described by Clinton Ezeigwe of People to People International; “As someone working in a non-government organization, this event has boost my knowledge on data sourcing, data collection, data analysis, and will help me in mapping my work environment” informed Aniekan Archibong of Partners for Peace in Akwa Ibom state.

What participants said about the 2 - day event

What participants said about the 2 – day event

In a 2 – day event on Friday, November 28 and Saturday 29, 2014 at the African University of Science and Technology, that was meant to raise the awareness on how NGOs can use available data to monitor service delivery in the health sector; empower journalist on using data for creating compelling stories that can cause change; and in all create a platform (on-the training) that can be used to monitor service delivery in the health sector. “We will be most interested in how citizens turned professionals like you all here, can take up stories from the data that will be curated during this event, in asking government questions about inputs in the health sector, and other sectors as well” said Christine K, Country Director of Heinrich Boell Stiftung Nigeria, during her keynote at the event.

In the minds of many participants was how we fit into this new world of Open Data with a party at the end. Did you ever wonder why the party? Well to clear the air, we started the “party” helping participants to know what data will mean to us, they as participants, and what it can change in the life of that curious woman that walks 30km from Keta to Goronyo to join an antenatal care program; what it meant for that hardworking man to transit from Potiskum to Kaduna before he can get a Hepatitis C viral load test, even though he had to borrow the 23, 000 Naira meant for this test. Yes, available and structured data can create a great story out of this recurring event.” If you are still looking for what could then happen from the gathering of these 102 participants – it’s all written in gold here, even though these are still stories in the making, but we can do much more” exclaimed Anas Sani Anka of the Nigeria Television Authority in Gusau, Zamfara

Adam Talsma of Reboot sharing skills that can make data matter to people on ground

Adam Talsma of Reboot sharing skills that can make data matter to people on ground

Going through the data pipeline (data sourcing, collection, collation, analysis, reporting and use) surprisingly, we got this shock again! Only 2% of the participants knew where to quickly find the available data of the federal government budget in Nigeria. Whilst data pipelines was meant to guide participants through the data management processes (in a participatory manner) it was another opportunity to share where the available data are online in the country, and how they can be used in advocacy and storytelling to start conversation around transparency and accountability; and also in exchanging feedbacks between the people and government.

Leading the skill share session was Adam Talsma of Reboot taking participants through using formhub and textit and Michael Egbe of eHealth Africa introducing participants to how they are mapping Nigeria using Open Street Maps. The storytelling sessions had Tina Armstrong, an award winning data journalist that is interested in telling stories of vulnerable communities using data; Joshua Olufemi shared skills and tools that has made Premium Times the best online investigative media in the country; while the session was rounded up by Ledum of Right to Know, showing participants how to enact the Freedom of Information Act in getting data from the government.

Joshua Olufemi of Premium Times Nigeria sharing skills on telling stories with data

Joshua Olufemi of Premium Times Nigeria sharing skills on telling stories with data

The high point of the first day was the, I want to learn, and I want to teach session – a remix of the School of Data Summer Camp World Cafe and Skill Share Session. “Learning particular skills in 10 minutes can be mind blowing and something I will not want to forget in a long time, I only hope we could have had more time other than the 30 minutes for the 10 min/skill session” narrated Michael Saanu of Africa Hope Foundation. Amongst skills that were taught is using Microsoft Excel for analysis, creating Survey form using Google Form, collaboration techniques with the Google Drive, writing funding proposals, community building, using Twitter and Facebook for advocacy, data scraping using Tabula amongst others. After this session, it was clear that participants wanted to be part of all the sessions, but they were only limited to three, as the night crept in faster than we expected – what an energetic way to end the first day!

Participants using sticky notes to chose what to learn and what to teach

Participants using sticky notes to chose what to learn and what to teach

Kick starting day 2, with the sun and expectations so high was lessons from participants, and an ice breaker on the power of around leadership. This day was dedicated to Open Street Maps and Data Sprint on Funds meant for inputs in the health sector. Moving from scraping the data from the budget office to visualizing it, and creating a monitoring instrument amongst the participants. Working through the available health facility data for Goronyo on NMIS data, we found out that some Goronyo data were not accurate –  So if we can’t use that, how do we get the government health facility data – most participants of this group concluded that the dhis2 data could be more reliable but its usage still remains difficult! Anyone wants to help in getting Goronyo health facility geo-referenced data? Please comment here. Not giving up, Sidney Bamidele of eHealth Africa trained participants on how to add, and edit points on open street maps and how to create task managers on HOTOSM.

Sidney Bamidele of eHealth Africa training participants on using Open Street Maps

Sidney Bamidele of eHealth Africa training participants on using Open Street Maps

Nevertheless, the data sprint with music, and drinks took the whole day, and I couldn’t stop hearing – OMG! So 20 million was budgeted for the construction of this health facility in my LGA, how come it is still at this state, I think we need to go and ask”; “I have found that so many time, descriptions of budget data has been duplicated – and how do we stop this”. As it has always been, only one sprinter had an apple laptop out of the 50 laptops on the tables; Most of the participants agreed that only 30% of Nigerians own a smart phone, so how many will used it, and how many will use an android or that new android app you are about to make? Maybe the feature of mobile activism in the country still lies in feature phones. These and many are conversations that always ensue during training and data sprint sessions I have facilitated. At the end what did we make – an Ushahidi Crowdmap instance of where funds for health input will go? a first step in starting a conversation around monitoring service delivery in that sector.

Participants during the Mapping and Data Sprint

Participants during the Mapping and Data Sprint

What next? in the words of the Hamzat Lawal, the Chief Executive of Connected Development [CODE], it is important that we brace up, and start using the data on this platform in asking questions directed not only to the government on if budget data description got to citizens it was meant for, but also to citizens it was meant for – on facility and health input usage and quality. As a School of Data Fellow, I have learnt that citizens need basic tools and skills to hold government accountable. As a monitoring and evaluation expert, I can see that in few years, lots of data will be released (even though most wouldn’t be responsible), but how citizens will identify and use the reliable ones remain a herculean task. As a human being, I learned how hardworking and brave my colleagues and participants are. At no time did I feel that facilitating data trainings was futile. Ultimately, what I really learned about data, or open data, or available data is that the NGOs, journalist, activist and governments still need more capacity building around this phenomenon.

Pictures from This event are on Flickr

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Catch us if you Can: The #OpenData party moves to Calabar!

- October 28, 2014 in Events

So what’s the fuss about this #Opendata party in the South South of Nigeria – It will be held in one of the cleanest city in AfricaCalabar, and will be hosted in a state that has the most comforting tourist attraction in West Africa – the Obudu Mountain Resort! If you think there is another like it in the region, please comment below ;) and one other thing about Calabar is the attributes to their women, and just for clarification – Calabar remains the capital city of Cross River State.

Right on time at the popular Mirage Hotel on October 15, 2014 was the Open data party that had 15 participants from different NGOs, citizens and this time we had some government officials – thus making it interesting. Whenever you have these three groups locked on a round table – questions like: why didn’t you make the data available, why didn’t  you reply our FOIA, didn’t we make funding available for you to monitor, what happened to all the international aid you get, all come up, and as a facilitator – you are lost!

Break out session at the Open Data Party in Calabar

Break out session at the Open Data Party in Calabar

With my experience teaching data with NGOs, journalists and citizens, it is still clear that few of the practitioners know where even the little data available is hidden online. “It is appalling that we all here don’t know where the federal government budget is being published” affirmed Onoche Mokwunye. I get this answer often in all my sessions, which makes us conclude at times that the simple skill of finding data (secondary) itself and what their interest was in data, remains important.

In trying to figure out what kind of data they were interested in 40% of the participants were interested in budget data of the country; 30% were interested in contract data  (in essence, the issue of money, and how it’s been used is important), while the remaining 30% was shared amongst election data, environmental data, infrastructure data, and transport data (which seems not to be available). Going forward did they really know where to find this data? KNOW! Well, it will be important to state that the Nigerian government has recently focused on some open data initiatives, even though it is not as if these portals make data available in machine readable format.

See what kind of data our participants were interested in

See what kind of data our participants were interested in

One may think, since we wouldn’t know where to find, or how to get the data, analyzing data might be a great challenge, of course NO! This group had great knowledge of diving into excel spreadsheets – maybe I knew only one way of handling some task before, now I learnt two more ways – that was the most interesting part of this data party! So what else, how do we present this datasets using several visualizations and infographic. “I have seen several colourful visualizations (online) that people in our communities cannot relate with, as such we still need to break it down in the language they will understand (offline) – maybe that’s an added task for us” explained Benny from AfterSchool Peer Mentoring Project

Just before the end of the sessions, participants already concluded to have another 2-day Open Data Party,, while they declared having step down training in their own communities. When our Open Data party ends within 8 hours, participants are at times heartbroken! “Are we going to continue tomorrow, I seem to be an information and skill overload in a short time” – mentioned Ndoma Mayor in a phone call with me. Truly, does our party end in 8 hours? What happens to the” party” behind Open data – we always rock the club, after all, we are in Calabar, where the female become goddess at night! And if you want to know where our next open data party will be happening: most definitely – Abuja, No thanks to Connected Development [CODE] and Indigo Trust UK

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Breaking the Knowledge Barrier: The #OpenData Party in Northern Nigeria

- October 1, 2014 in Community, Data Expeditions, Data for CSOs, Events, Uncategorized

If the only news you have been watching or listening to about Northern Nigeria is of the Boko Haram violence in that region of Nigeria, then you need to know that other news exist, like the non-government organizations and media, that are interested in using the state and federal government budget data in monitoring service delivery, and making sure funds promised by government reach the community it was meant for.

This time around, the #OpenData party moved from the Nigeria Capital – Abuja to Gusau, Zamfara and was held at the Zamfara Zakat and Endowment Board Hall between September Thursday, 25 and Friday, 26, 2014. With 40 participant all set for this budget data expedition, participants included the state Budget Monitoring Group (A coalition of NGOs in Zamfara) coordinated by the DFID (Development for International Development) State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI),other international NGOs such as Society for Family Health (SFH), Save the Children, amongst others.


Group picture of participants at the #OpenData Party in Zamfara

But how do you teach data and its use in a less-technology savvy region? We had to de-mystify teaching data to this community, by engaging in traditional visualization and scraping – which means the use of paper artworks in visualizing the data we already made available on the Education Budget Tracker. “I never believed we could visualize the education budget data of the federal government as easy as what was on the wall” exclaimed Ahmed Ibrahim of SAVI


Visualization of the Education Budget for Federal Schools in Zamfara

As budgets have become a holy grail especially with state government in Nigeria, of most importance to the participants on the first day, was how to find budget data, and processes involved in tracking if services were really delivered, as promised in the budget. Finding the budget data of the state has been a little bit hectic, but with much advocacy, the government has been able to release dataset on the education and health sector. So what have been the challenges of the NGOs in tracking or using this data, as they have been engaged in budget tracking for a while now?

Challenges of Budget Tracking Highlighted by participants

Challenges of Budget Tracking Highlighted by participants

“Well, it is important to note that getting the government to release the data took us some time and rigorous advocacy, added to the fact that we ourselves needed training on analysis, and telling stories out of the budget data” explained Joels Terks Abaver of the Christian Association of Non Indigenes. During one of the break out session, access to budget information and training on how to use this budget data became a prominent challenge in the resolution of the several groups.

The second day took participants through the data pipelines, while running an expedition on the available education and health sector budget data that was presented on the first day. Alas! We found out a big challenge on this budget data – it was not location specific! How does one track a budget data that does not answer the question of where? When involved in budget tracking, it is important to have a description data that states where exactly the funds will go. An example is Construction of Borehole water pump in Kaura Namoda LGA Primary School, or we include the budget of Kaura Namoda LGA Primary School as a subtitle in the budget document.

Taking participants through the data pipelines and how it relates to the Monitoring and Evaluation System

Taking participants through the data pipelines and how it relates to the Monitoring and Evaluation System

In communities like this, it is important to note that soft skills are needed to be taught – , like having 80% of the participants not knowing why excel spreadsheets are been used for budget data; like 70% of participants not knowing there is a Google spreadsheet that works like Microsoft Excel; like all participants not even knowing where to get the Nigeria Budget data and not knowing what Open Data means. Well moving through the school of data through the Open Data Party in this part of the world, as changed that notion.”It was an interesting and educative 2-day event taking us through the budget cycle and how budget data relates to tracking” Babangida Ummar, the Chairman of the Budget Working Group said.

Going forward, this group of NGO and journalist has decided to join trusted sources that will be monitoring service delivery of four education institutions in the state, using the Education Budget Tracker. It was an exciting 2-day as we now hope to have a monthly engagement with this working group, as a renewed effort in ensuring service delivery in the education sector. Wondering where the next data party will happen? We are going to the South – South of Nigeria in the month of October – Calabar to be precise, and on the last day of the month, we will be rocking Abuja!

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A Weekend of Data, Hacks and Maps in Nigeria

- September 16, 2014 in Data Expeditions

It was another weekend of hacking for good all around the world, and Abuja, Nigeria was not left out of the weekend of good, as 30 participants gathered at the Indigo Trust funded space of Connected Development [CODE] on 12 – 14 September, scraping datasets, brainstorming creating technology for good, and not leaving one thing out – talking soccer (because it was a weekend, and Nigeria “techies” love soccer especially the English premiership).

Participants at the Hack4Good 2014 in Nigeria

Participants at the Hack4Good 2014 in Nigeria

Leading the team, was Dimgba Kalu (Software Architect with Integrated Business Network and founder TechNigeria), who kick started the 3 day event that was built around 12 coders with other 18 participants that worked on the Climate Change adaptation stream of this year #Hack4Good. So what data did we explore and what was hacked over the weekend in Nigeria? Three streams were worked :

  1. Creating a satellite imagery tagging/tasking system that can help the National Space Research Development Agency deploy micromappers to tag satellite imageries from the NigeriaSat1 and NigeriaSat2
  2. Creating an i-reporting system that allows citizen reporting during disasters to Nigeria Emergency Management Agency
  3. Creating an application that allows citizens know the next water point and its quality within their community and using the newly released dataset from the Nigeria Millennium Development Goal Information System on water points in the country.

Looking at the three systems that was proposed to be developed by the 12 coders, one thing stands out, that in Nigeria application developers still find it difficult to produce apps that can engage citizens – a particular reason being that Nigerians communicate easily through the radio, followed by SMS as it was confirmed while I did a survey during the data exploration session.

Coders Hackspace

Coders Hackspace

Going forward, all participants agreed that incorporating the above medium (Radio and SMS) and making games out of these application could arouse the interest of users in Nigeria.  “It doesn’t mean that Nigerian users are not interested in mobile apps, what we as developers need is to make our apps more interesting” confirmed Jeremiah Ageni, a participant.

The three days event started with the cleaning of the water points data, while going through the data pipelines, allowing the participants to understand how these pipelines relates to mapping and hacking. While the 12 hackers were drawn into groups, the second day saw thorough hacking – into datasets and maps! Some hours into the second day, it became clear that the first task wouldn’t be achievable; so much energy should be channelled towards the second and third task.

SchoolofData Fellow - Oludotun Babayemi taking on the Data Exploration session

SchoolofData Fellow – Oludotun Babayemi taking on the Data Exploration session

Hacking could be fun at times, when some other side attractions and talks come up – Manchester United winning big (there was a coder, that was checking every minutes and announcing scores)  , old laptops breaking (seems coders in Abuja have old  ones), coffee and tea running out (seems we ran out of coffee, like it was a sprint), failing operating systems (interestingly, no coders in the house had a Mac operating system), fear of power outage (all thanks to the power authority – we had 70 hours of uninterrupted power supply) , and no encouragement from the opposite sex (there was only two ladies that strolled into the hack space).

Bring on the energy to the hackspace

Bring on the energy to the hackspace

As the weekend drew to a close, coders were finalizing and preparing to show their great works.  A demo and prototype of streams 2 and 3 were produced. The first team (working on stream 2), that won the hackathon developed EMERGY, an application that allows citizens to send geo-referenced reports disasters such as floods, oil spills, deforestation to the National Emergency Management Agency of Nigeria, and also create a situation awareness on disaster tagged/prone communities, while the second team, working on stream 3, developed KNOW YOUR WATER POINT an application that gives a geo-referenced position of water points in the country. It allows communities; emergency managers and international aid organizations know the next community where there is a water source, the type, and the condition of the water source.

(The winning team of the Hack4Good Nigeria) From Left -Ben; Manga; SchoolofData Fellow -Oludotun Babayemi; Habib; Chief Executive, CODE - Hamzat

(The winning team of the Hack4Good Nigeria) From Left -Ben; Manga; SchoolofData Fellow -Oludotun Babayemi; Habib; Chief Executive, CODE – Hamzat

Living with coders all through the weekend, was mind blowing, and these results and outputs would not be scaled without its challenges. “Bringing our EMERGY application live as an application that cuts across several platforms such as java that allows it to work on feature phones can be time consuming and needs financial and ideology support” said Manga, leader of the first team. Perhaps, if you want to code, do endeavour to code for good!


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