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Ten Cool Things I Learned at DataJConf

Yan Naung Oak - August 18, 2017 in Events, Fellowship

This article was cross-posted from its original location at the Open and Shut blog

I had a fantastic time at the European Computational and Data Journalism Conference in Dublin on 6-7 July in the company of many like-minded data journalists, academics, and open data practitioners. There were a lot of stimulating ideas shared during the presentations on the first day, the unconference on the second day, and the many casual conversations in between!

In this post I’d like to share the ten ideas that stuck with me the most (it was tough to whittle it down to just ten!). Hopefully you’ll find these thoughts interesting, and hopefully they’ll spark some worthwhile discussions about data journalism and storytelling.

I’d really love to hear what you have to say about all of this, so please do share any thoughts or observations that you might have below the line!

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The European Data and Computational Journalism Conference, Dublin, 6-7 July 2017

  1. ‘Deeper’ data journalism is making a real impact

Marianne Bouchart – manager of the Data Journalism Awards – gave a presentation introducing some of the most exciting award winners of 2017, and talked about some of the most important new trends in data journalism today. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the electoral rollercoasters of the past year, a lot of great data journalism has been centred around electioneering and other political dramas.

Marianne said that “impact” was the theme that ran through the best pieces produced last year, and she really stressed the central role that investigative journalism needs to play in producing strong data-driven stories. She said that impactful investigative journalism is increasingly merging with data journalism, as we saw in projects shedding light on shady anti-transparency moves by Brazilian politicians, investigating the asset-hoarding of Serbian politicians, and exposing irresponsible police handling of sexual assault cases in Canada.

  1. Machine learning could bring a revolution in data journalism

Two academics presented on the latest approaches to computational journalism – journalism that applies machine learning techniques to dig into a story.

Marcel Broersma from the University of Groningen presented on an automated analysis of politicians’ use of social media. The algorithm analysed 80,000 tweets from Dutch, British and Belgian politicians to identify patterns of what he called the ‘triangle of political communication’ between politicians, journalists, and citizens.

The project wasn’t without its difficulties, though – algorithmically detecting sarcasm still remained a challenge, and the limited demographics of Twitter users meant that this kind of research could only look at how narrow certain segments of society communicated.

Jennifer Stark from the University of Maryland looked at the possibilities for algorithms to be biased – specifically looking at Google Image Search’s representations of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s photos during their campaigns. Through the use of an image recognition API that detects emotions, she found that Clinton’s pictures were biased towards showing her appear happier whereas for Trump, both happiness and anger were overrepresented.

Although it’s still early days for computational journalism, talks like these hinted at exciting new data journalism methods to come!

  1. There are loads of ways to learn new skills!

The conference was held at the beautiful University College Dublin, where a brand new master’s program in data journalism is being launched this year. We also heard from one of the conference organisers, Martin Chorley, about Cardiff University’s Master’s in Computational and Data Journalism, which has been going strong for three years, and has had a great track record of placing students into employment.

But formal education isn’t the only way to get those cutting edge data journo skills! One of the conference organisers also presented the results of a worldwide survey of data journalists, taking in responses from 180 data journalists across 44 countries. One of the study’ most notable findings was that only half of respondents had formal training in data journalism – the rest picked up the necessary skills all by themselves. Also, when asked how they wanted to further their skills, more respondents said they wanted to brush up on their skills in short courses rather than going back to school full-time.

  1. Want good government data? Be smart (and be charming)!

One of the most fascinating parts of the conference for me was learning about the different ways data journalists obtained data for their projects.

Kathryn Tourney from The Detail in Northern Ireland found Freedom of Information requests useful, but with the caveat that you really needed to know the precise structure of the data you are requesting in order to get the best data. Kathryn would conduct prior research on the exact schemas of government databases and work to get hold of the forms that the government used to collect the data she wanted before making the actual FOI requests. This ensured that there was no ambiguity about what she’d receive on the other side!

Conor Ryan from Ireland’s RTÉ found that he didn’t need to make FOI requests to do deep investigative work, because there was already a lot of government data “available” to the public. The catch was that this data was often buried behind paywalls and multiple layers of bureaucracy.

Conor stressed the importance of ensuring that any data sources RTÉ managed to wrangle were also made available in a more accessible way for future users. One example related to accessing building registry data in Ireland, where originally a €5 fee existed for every request made. Conor and his team pointed out this obstacle to the authorities and persuaded them to change the rules so that the data would be available in bulk in the future.

Lastly, during the unconference one story from Bulgaria really resonated with my own experiences trying to get a hold of data from governments in closed societies. A group of techies offered the Bulgarian government help with an array of technical issues, and by building relationships with staff on the ground – as well as getting the buy-in of political decision makers – they were able to get their hands on a great deal of data that would have forever remained inaccessible if they’d gone through the ‘standard’ channels for accessing public information.

  1. The ethics of data sharing are tricky

The best moments at these conferences are the ones that make you go: “Hmm… I never thought about it that way before!”. During Conor Ryan’s presentation, he really emphasized the need for data journalists to consider the ethics of sharing the data that they have gathered or analysed.

He pointed out that there’s a big difference between analysing data internally and reporting on a selected set of verifiable results, and publishing the entire dataset from your analysis publicly. In the latter case, every single row of data becomes a potential defamation suit waiting to happen. This is especially true when the dataset involved is disaggregated down the level of individuals!

  1. Collaboration is everything

Being a open data practitioner means that my dream scenarios are collaborations on data-driven projects between techies, journalists and civil society groups. So it was really inspiring to hear Megan Lucero talk about how The Bureau Local (at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism) has built up a community of civic techies, local journalists, and civil society groups across the UK.

Even though The Bureau Local was only set up a few months ago, they quickly galvanized this community around the 2017 UK general elections, and launched four different collaborative investigative data journalism projects. One example is their piece on targeted ads during the election campaign, where they collaborated with the civic tech group Who Targets Me to collect and analyse data about the kinds of political ads targeting social media users.

I’d love to see more experiments like The Bureau Local emerging in other countries as well! In fact, one of the main purposes of Open and Shut is precisely to build this kind of community for folks in closed societies who want to collaborate on data-driven investigations. So please get involved!

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Who Targets Me? Is an initiative working to collect and analyse data about the kinds of political ads targeting social media users.

  1. Data journalism needs cash – so where can we find it?

It goes without saying these days that journalism is having a bad time of it at the moment. Advertising and subscription revenues don’t pull in nearly as much cash as the used to. Given that pioneering data-driven investigative journalism takes a lot of time and effort, the question that naturally arises is: “where do we get the money for all this?”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, no-one at DataJConf had any straightforward answers to this question.

A lot of casual conversations in between sessions drifted onto the topic of funding for data journalism, and lots of people seemed worried that innovative work in the field is currently too dependent on funding from foundations. That being said, attendees also shared stories about interesting funding experiments being undertaken around the world, with the Korean Center for Investigative Journalism’s crowdfunding approach gaining some interest.

  1. Has data journalism been failing us?

In the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, a recurring topic in many conversations was about whether data journalism actually had any serious positive impacts. During the unconference discussions, some of us ended up being sucked into the black hole question of “What constitutes proper journalism anyway?”. It wasn’t all despair and navel-gazing, however, and we definitely identified a few concrete things that could be improved.

One related to the need to better represent uncertainty in data journalism. This ties into questions of improving the public’s data literacy, but also of traditional journalism’s tendency to present attention-grabbing leads and conclusions without doing enough to convey complexity and nuance. People kept referencing FiveThirtyEight’s election prediction page, which contained a sophisticated representation of the uncertainty in their modelling, but hid it all below the fold – an editorial decision, it was argued, that lulled readers into thinking that the big number that they saw at the top of the page was the only thing that mattered.

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FiveThirtyEight’s forecast of the 2016 US elections showed a lot of details below the fold about their forecasting model’s uncertainty, but most readers just looked at the big percentages at the top.

Another challenge identified by attendees was that an enormous amount of resources were being deployed to preach to the choir instead of reaching out to a broader base of readers. The unconference participants pointed out that a lot of the sophisticated data journalism stories written in the run-up to the 2016 US elections were geared towards partisan audiences. We agreed that we needed to see more accessible, impactful data stories that were not so mired in party politics, such as ProPublica’s insightful piece on rising US maternal mortality rates.

  1. Data journalism can be incredibly powerful in the Global South

Many of the talks were about data journalism as it was practised in Western countries – with one notable exception. Eva Constantaras, who trains investigative data journalism teams in the Global South, held a wonderful presentation about the impactfulness of data journalism in the developing world. She gave the examples of IndiaSpend in India and The Nation in Kenya, and spoke about how their data-driven stories worked to identify problems that resonated with the public, and explain them in an accessible and impactful way.

Election coverage in these two examples shared by Eva focused on investigating the consequences of the policy proposals of politicians, engaging in fact-checking, and identifying the kinds of problems that were faced by voters in reality.

Without the burden of partisan echo-chambers, and because data journalism is still very new and novel in many parts of the world, data journalism could end up having a huge impact on public debate and storytelling in the Global South. Watch this space!

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Kenya’s The Nation has been producing data-driven stories more and more frequently, such as this piece on Kenya’s Eleventh Elections in August 2017*

  1. Storytelling has to connect on a human level

If there was one recurring theme that I heard throughout the conference about what makes data journalism impactful, it was that the data-driven story has to connect on a human level. Eva had a slide in her talk with a quote from John Steinbeck about what makes a good story:

“If a story is not about the hearer he [or she] will not listen… A great lasting story is about everyone, or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting – only the deeply personal and familiar.”

“I want loads of money” — Councillor Hugh McElvaney caught on hidden camera video from RTÉ

Conor from RTÉ also drove the same point home. After his team’s extensive data-driven investigative work revealed corruption in Irish politics, the actual story that they broke involved a hidden-camera video of an undercover interview with one of these politicians. This video highlighted just one datapoint in a very visceral way, which ultimately resonated more with the audience than any kind of data visualisation could.

I could go on for longer, but that’s probably quite enough for one blog post! Thanks for reading this far, and I hope you managed to gain some nice insights from my experiences at DataJConf. It was a fascinating couple of days, and I’m looking forward to building upon all of these exciting new ideas in the months ahead! If any of these thoughts have got you excited, curious (or maybe even furious) we’d love to hear from you below the line.

Open & Shut is a project from the Small Media team. Small Media are an organisation working to support freedom of information in closed societies, and are behind the portal Iran Open Dat*a.

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The Genesis of The School of Data Fellowship

Katelyn Rogers - July 20, 2017 in Fellowship

In 2013, data literacy was, and in many ways remains, a nascent field. Unsurprisingly, finding reliable trainers to carry out School of Data missions around the world was a struggle. We started our Fellowship programme, as a way to address the lack of data literacy trainers throughout the world. Even in 2013, it was clear that while short term data trainings were effective at raising awareness of potential uses of data for storying telling and advocacy, more long term interventions were required to actually build data skills in civil society and the media. We designed the School of Data Fellowship to address these two primary challenges that we had identified and were regularly confronting during the course of our work:

  1. there is a severe shortage of data trainers able to work with local communities and adapt training to local needs and/or languages.
  2. organisations and individuals need to engage with data over a long period of time for data activities to become embedded within their work.

Building the foundations

Our Fellowships are nine-month placements with School of Data for existing data-literacy practitioners. We identify high potential individuals with topical expertise and help them mature as data literacy leaders by working alongside School of Data and our global network. At the start of the Fellowship, we create an individualised programme with each Fellow, designed to equip them with the skills they need to more effectively further data literacy in their community. This programme is built around the core competencies required for furthering data literacy: community building; content creation; and knowledge transfer (see Data Literacy Activity Matrix) for more details on these competencies).

From the outset, we were successful at recruiting high-potential individuals to participate in the programme and throughout the years the applicant pool has only grown. We have worked with the Fellows to adapt and translate materials, develop original learning content and provide training to local civil society. Each year, we make tweaks in the programme to reflect learnings both from where we are achieving our goals as well as where we have fallen short.

An evolving process

Over the years, we have fine-tuned the goals of the programme to reflect what we have found the Fellowship programme to be most effective at achieving as well as what is needed to advance data literacy. These goals are as follows:

  1. identify, train and support individuals who have the potential to become data leaders and sources of expertise in their country and/region;

  2. kickstart, or strengthen, data literacy communities in the countries where current and former Fellows are active

Prior to 2016, we had not clearly articulated that kickstarting data literacy communities was one of the goals of the Fellowship programme but it had become obvious that this was a critical component to the sustainability of our work. Given that data literacy is such a nascent field, it was always important, in each new city/country, for the Fellows to do substantial awareness raising work. The Fellows who were most successful would provide trainings and organise meet-ups not necessarily to build individual skills but to start sensitising local communities to the idea that data is a powerful tool for civil society.

A successful approach

In late 2016, we conducted interviews with two dozen School of Data Fellows to better understand whether we were achieving our goals as a programme. These interviews formed the basis of our first Fellowship Outcomes Mapping. Some of the highlights of these interviews can be found below.

The Fellows:

We found that the Fellowship has been successful in achieving its initial goal, creating a community of qualified local trainers knowledgeable in School of Data methodologies and actively spreading data literacy in their respective countries:

  1. Better Understanding of the Data Needs and Challenges of Civil Society: Over the years, we have recruited a number of developers, data analysts and entrepreneurs, who, prior to the Fellowship, had little understanding of the specific challenges faced by civil society in using data. Through working with local NGOs, governments and newsrooms, these Fellows gained an understanding of how they could use their skills to serve civil society more effectively.

  2. New Methodologies & Approaches for Training: Through the Fellowship programme, Fellows were able to tap into a network of data literacy practitioners and learn from the best about how to build an effective training programme for any audience.

  3. International Visibility & Connections: Finally, through the School of Data programme, Fellows were introduced to an international community, increasing both the visibility of their work and providing them with a number of new and exciting opportunities to train and to be recruited for consultancies and jobs. Fellows have gone on to work for large newsrooms, international organisations, development agencies and governments.

The local communities

In addition to supporting Fellows to achieve their own goals and personal development, the Fellowship programme also seeks to strengthen data literacy within local civil society. The potential of the Fellowship to have a meaningful impact on local civil society groups was formally acknowledged in 2016, with the inclusion of a specific programmatic goal relating to community-building. As seen in School of Data’s research on the value of different formats of data literacy activities, the Fellowship format is most successful in achieving outcomes related to awareness-building (understanding of data uses, awareness of data skill gaps, knowledge of the data pipeline) as well as the kickstarting of data-related activities locally.

This awareness raising work is required in every sector. It is not necessarily because there is an emerging data community focused on transparency and accountability in public finance or extractives that the local health or water CSOs will be sold on the idea of integrating more data into their work. To reflect these learnings, in 2016, we started recruiting Fellows with a particular topical interest or expertise who would work on data literacy in that specific sector.

Next Steps

We are continuously working to improve the Fellowship process and are overjoyed most of our past Fellows go on to become active members of the School of Data network. Over the next few months, we will be posting a series of articles about the Fellowship programme including:

  • Steps we have taken to ensure diversity in each Fellowship class as well as the challenges we still face in terms of inclusivity
  • Funding the low-visibility infrastructure-building work that is a critical part of the Fellowship process
  • How and where we have struggled to make the Fellowship model work and plan we have for changing that

We welcome any thoughts and feedback that you have. Get in touch on twitter @schoolofdata or via our contact page.

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Welcoming our 2017 Fellows and Data Experts!

Meg Foulkes - June 21, 2017 in Announcement, Fellowship

We’re delighted to welcome our new Fellows and Data Experts to School of Data! We wish them all every success for the year ahead.


Idriss Kone, Cote D’Ivoire

Idriss is a statistician and  economist at the Ministry of Budget in Cote d’Ivoire where he is responsible for monitoring and evaluating customs activities including the analysis of foreign trade statistics and measuring the  impact of tariff reforms and trade agreements. Furthermore, Idriss has experience in Education and Financial Inclusion having worked as the MTEF(Medium Term Expenditure Framework)  specialist at Ministry of Education and served as a principal investigator for “Women, Monetary Practices and Technological Innovation” project in Côte d’Ivoire. He  holds an engineering  diploma in statistics and econometrics from the National Advanced School of Statistics and Applied Economics of Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire). He will be joining the 2017 Fellowship class to work with the Publish What You Pay coalition in Cote d’Ivoire on extractives data.

Pascal Elie, Haiti

Pascale Elie holds a BA in Mathematics and Economics from the University of Montreal and specializes in statistical and actuarial analysis. She worked as a statistician and actuarial adviser for various Canadian and Haitian companies, particularly for the Auto Insurance Fund for the State Employees in Haiti. She also participated in launching a start-up insurance company in Haiti, UniAssurance S.A. Currently, she is a consultant for HaitiPay S.A., where she leads the company by proposing and implementing financial product using strategic mobile payment solutions. With HaitiPay, she is also responsible for marketing a mobile wallet service operated by the National Bank of Credit, by developing and implementing distribution strategies and leading elaboration of new products and services related to mobile banking. She will be working to develop the data literacy community in Haiti as part of the Going Global: Digital Jobs and Gender programme.


Lyse Marie-Carlie Ladouceur, Haiti

Lyse is an engineering student at the Ecole Supérieure d’Infotronique d’Haïti (Port-au-Prince). She served as a GIS and Data Entry Intern for UNOPS where she used data to created maps that detailed the road conditions in the south of Haiti following Hurricane Matthew. She will be working to develop the data literacy community in Haiti as part of the Going Global: Digital Jobs and Gender programme.

Yan Naung Oak, Myanmar

Yan is passionate about civic tech, open data, and the power of new technologies to empower communities and civil society. He is currently work at Phandeeyar, an ICT Innovation Hub in Yangon, Myanmar, which is spearheading the use of technology to accelerate change and development in Myanmar. He is a native of Myanmar but studied and worked in Singapore and the United States, before coming back to Yangon in 2014. He will be joining the 2017 fellowship class to work with the Natural Resource Governance Institute on data literacy and data availability in the jade mining sector.


Sebastián Oliva, Guatemala 


Sebastián Oliva was born in Guatemala and got into computers since his early childhood. Although he majored in engineering and physics, he kept an interest in social science as well as for the multidisciplinary realm of exact science.

Sebastián has worked both for tech companies and for social tech projects. He also develops free software and hardware. He was a in intern for Google, in the “cloud” division, where he gathered knowledge of programming language Python.

Sebastián was member of the winner teams in the Latin American development challenge Desarollando Latinoamérica 2014 and was a finalist in the Space Apps Challenge 2014. His interest in School of Data comes naturally when you align his social impact interests with his technical skills in data extraction, processing and presentation. Amongst his other interests you can count documentary photography and, why not, role and strategy games. You can send him a tweet at @tian2992


Data Experts 

Nuru Magwaza, Tanzania

Nuru is a data trainer and researcher from Dar es Salaam Tanzania. After graduating with a Bachelors degree in Computer and Information management, she has worked as a research assistant and data consultant in Tanzania including with the Open Data Institute. As a data enthusiast, she is now working as a data fellow in the Data Zetu project under Code for Tanzania which helps citizens in addressing their problems by using data.

She will be joining the 2017 data expert programme working with the Tanzania Media Foundation and NRGI to clean extractive sector data from TEITI, develop an extractive data journalism fellowship curriculum and run in-house data training for TMF staff.


Ketty Adoch, Uganda

Ketty 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 methodology very useful and has used it in her training in Uganda. She will be joining the 2017 data expert programme to work with the African Centre for Media Excellence in developing GIS skills and tools for journalists and media organisations focusing on the extractive sector.





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[French] Le Fellowship de School of Data : Questions et réponses

Cedric Lombion - March 29, 2017 in Fellowship

En 2017, nous recrutons des Fellows dans trois pays francophones: Haïti, Côte d’Ivoire et Sénégal. Les thèmes sont les suivants :

  • Haïti: Fondamentaux de la littératie de données
  • Côte d’Ivoire, Sénégal: Données de l’industrie extractive.

Voir l’annonce principale

Vous n’êtes pas certains que le Fellowship soit fait pour vous ? Vous vous posez encore des questions ? Cet article rassemble les questions et réponses les plus courantes. Nous le mettrons à jour aussi souvent que possible !

  • En quoi consiste le Fellowship de School of Data ?

Les Fellowships sont des placements de 9 mois au sein du réseau School of Data pour des individus pratiquant ou passionnés par la littératie de données. Au cours de cette période, les Fellows travaillent aux côtés de l’équipe de coordination et du réseau de School of Data : vous apprendrez beaucoup de nous, et inversement ! Nous travaillerons ensemble pour construire un programme individuel pour votre Fellowship. Avec pour but d’acquérir les compétences vous permettant de progresser sur votre travail de littératie de donnée: pour former les autres, développer un réseau, organiser des événements. Quelle que soit l’activité, notre objectif est de sensibiliser à la littératie de données et construire des communautés qui, ensemble, peuvent utiliser les compétences d’usage des données afin d’être moteur du changement dans le monde.

Le Fellowship a pour objectif de recruter et former la prochaine génération de “data leaders” et formateurs afin d’étendre l’impact de notre programme de littératie de la donnée. Les Fellows fournissent une formation et un appui dans le temps aux journalistes, organisations de la société civile et individus innovants afin qu’ils soient capables d’utiliser les données de façon pertinente au sein de leur communauté ou pays. Nous recherchons des candidats qui ont des liens existants avec un réseau de promoteurs de la littératie de données, ou qui ont des connexions au sein d’une organisation particulière travaillent dans ce domaine.

Nous recrutons nos Fellows annuellement, et chaque génération devient une partie intégrante du réseau international de School of Data. Ils peuvent donc s’apputer sur la force du réseau pour partager des ressources ou connaissances, de façon à contribuer au mieux à notre compréhension des meilleurs stratégies pour mener des formations pertinentes au niveau local.

  • Est-ce que le Fellow doit habiter/être en permanence dans le pays ?

Il est attendu des Fellows qu’ils soient disponibles 10 jours par mois pour le Fellowship. La plupart des missions nécessiteront une présence de terrain, ce qui sera plus facile si vous habitez le pays au moins 2 semaines par mois. Par ailleurs, nous recherchons des personnes qui aimeraient rester actives sur le long terme dans le pays, ce qui implique qu’un candidat y habitant sera favorisé. Cela dit, nous sommes flexibles et si un Fellow a un déplacement prévu, nous saurons trouver un arrangement.

  • Est-ce que le Fellow doit parler couramment anglais ?

La coordination du Fellowship se fera en Français pour les Fellows francophones. Cela dit, un avantage sera donné aux candidats sachant parler anglais: il est important de pouvoir communiquer avec les reste de la communauté School of Data ! Pas besoin d’être bilingue cependant, être capable de parler un anglais simple et de comprendre des interlocuteurs anglophones est suffisant.

  • Les Fellows devront-ils voyager durant le programme ?

Oui. En mai, à l’occasion du Camp d’Été de School of Data, les Fellows rejoindront la communauté en Afrique du Sud pour planifier leur Fellowship et être formés aux méthodologies de School of Data. Cela nécessite donc d’avoir un passeport, et de lancer les démarches de demande de visa dès que vous êtes sélectionnés. Pensez-y !

Vous avez des questions mais pas de réponses ? Contactez nous via Twitter ou notre site!

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Ask Your Questions to Former School of Data Fellows

Meg Foulkes - March 23, 2017 in Announcement, Events, Fellowship


Do you have questions about what it’s like to be a School of Data Fellow? What will I learn? How can I fit Fellowship work around other commitments like work and family? Will I need to travel a lot?

As part of our call for applications for the 2017 Fellowships and Data Experts, we’re hosting a live, informal Question and Answer session next Monday 27th March at 12.30 UTC with two former fellows :

  • Julio Lopez, a Fellow from the Class of 2015 from Ecuador
  • Sheena Carmel Opulencia-Calub, also from our Class of 2015, who’s based in the Philippines.

You can read more about both of their backgrounds and interests here.

The Q&A will be live on School of Data’s Youtube channel: link. Look forward to seeing you there!

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[French] Postulez maintenant! Candidatures ouvertes pour les programmes de School of Data

Cedric Lombion - March 21, 2017 in Announcement, Fellowship

School of Data invite journalistes, associations de la société civiles – et quiconque intéressé par la promotion de la littératie de données – à candidater à son programme de Fellowship. Les candidatures pour ce programmes, qui durent d’avril à mai 2017, fermeront Dimanche 16 avril 2017. Pour le Fellowship francophones, School of Data recherche des candidats dans trois pays:

  • Sénégal
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Haïti

Candidater pour Fellowship  ou lire la Foire aux questions.

Note: si vous venez d’un autre pays, veuillez vous référer à l’annonce principale, en anglais

Le Fellowship

Les Fellowships sont des placements de 9 mois au sein du réseau School of Data pour des individus pratiquant ou passionnés par la littératie de données. Au cours de cette période, les Fellows travaillent aux côtés de l’équipe de coordination et du réseau de School of Data : vous apprendrez beaucoup de nous, et inversement ! Nous travaillerons ensemble pour construire un programme individuel pour votre Fellowship. Avec pour but d’acquérir les compétences vous permettant de progresser sur votre travail de littératie de donnée: pour former les autres, développer un réseau, organiser des événements.

A l’image des années précédentes, l’objectif du programme de Fellowship est de faire la promotion de la littératie de données et de construire des communautés qui, ensemble, pourront utiliser leurs compétences liées aux données pour créer le changement qu’elles veulent voir dans le monde.

Le Fellowship 2017 poursuit l’approche thématique entamée par notre processus de recrutement de 2016. Ainsi, nous prioriserons les candidats qui:

  • font preuve d’une expérience et d’un enthousiasme envers une thématique spécifique de la littératie de données.
  • peuvent justifier de liens avec une organisation ou une communauté d’individus qui travaillent sur cette thématique

Nous recherchons des candidats qui ont une connaissance approfondie des domaines qui nous intéressent et qui ont entamé une réflexion sur les enjeux de littératie de données de ces domaines. Le but étant de pouvoir rentrer dans le vif du sujet le plus vite possible: 9 mois passent vite !

Pour en lire plus sur le programme de Fellowship (en anglais)

Le thèmes prioritaires de 2017

Nous collaborons cette année avec des organisations intéressés par les thèmes suivants:

  • données des industries extractives
  • fondamentaux de la littératie de données
Programme Thématique Pays
Fellowship Données de l’industri extractive Sénégal, Côte d’Ivoire
Fellowship Fondamentaux de la littératie de données Haïti

9 mois pour laisser un impact

Le programme se déroule d’avril à décembre 2017, et requiert 10 jours par mois de disponibilité. Les Fellows reçoivent un défraiement de 1,000 US$ par mois pour leur permettre de travailler dans des conditions optimales.

En mai, les Fellows rejoindront le reste de la communauté dans le cadre du Camp d’Ete de School of Data (pays à confirmer). Ce sera l’occasion de rencontrer les autres Fellows et membres du réseau, de planifier votre Fellowship et d’apprendre des autres participants sur les bonnes pratiques utilisées au sein du réseau School of Data.

Qu’attendez-vous ?

Lire la Foire aux questions or Candidater

Informations clé: le Fellowship

  • Date limite de candidature : 16 avril 2017, minuit GMT+0
  • Durée : d’avril 24 2017 au 31 décembre 2017
  • Disponibilité requise : 10 jours par mois
  • Défraiement : 1000 US$ par mois

Diversité et inclusivité

Nous nous engageons à être inclusifs dans notre processus de recrutement. Être inclusif signifie de n’exclure personne pour des questions d’origine ethnique, de religion, d’apparence, d’orientation sexuelle, ou de genre. Nous cherchons activement à recruiter des individus qui diffèrent les uns des autres sur ces caractéristiques, car nous sommes convaincus que la diversité est une richesse pour notre travail.

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Apply Now! School of Data’s Fellowship and Data Expert Programmes

Cedric Lombion - March 2, 2017 in Announcement, Fellowship

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School of Data is inviting journalists, civil society advocates and anyone interested in pushing data literacy forward to apply for its 2017 Fellowship and Data Expert Programmes, which will run from April to December 2017. Up to 10 positions are open, with an application deadline set on Sunday, April 16th of 2017.

Apply for the Fellowship Programme or Apply for the Data Expert Programme

The Fellowship

Fellowships are nine-month placements with School of Data for data-literacy practitioners or enthusiasts. During this time, Fellows work alongside School of Data to build an individual programme that will make use of both the collective experience of School of Data’s network to help Fellows gain new skills, and the knowledge that Fellows bring along with them, be it about a topic, a community or specific data literacy challenges.

Similarly to previous years, our aim with the Fellowship programme is to increase awareness of data literacy and build communities who together, can use data literacy skills to make the change they want to see in the world.

The 2017 Fellowship will continue the thematic approach pioneered by the 2016 class. As a result, we will be prioritising candidates who:

  • possess experience in, and enthusiasm for, a specific area of data literacy training

  • can demonstrate links with an organisation practising in this defined area and/or links with an established network operating in the field

We are looking for engaged individuals who already have in-depth knowledge of a given sector and have been reflecting on the data literacy challenges faced in the field. This will help Fellows get off to a running start and achieve the most during their time with School of Data: nine months fly by!

Read More about the Fellowship Programme

The Data Expert programme

Launched formally for the first time this year, the Data Expert programme aims to strengthen the ability of strategic civil society organisations that are strategically positioned to bring about social change in their field of expertise to manage and deliver data driven projects. The Data Expert Programme was designed to complement the School of Data Fellowship and for it, we are recruiting a slightly different profile. Data Experts are expected to be more senior than fellows, with demonstrable technical and project management skills. By matching these individuals with the selected partner organisations, while providing them support through our network and partners, we expect to create a decisive impact on the use of data within key civil society organisations around the world

We will consequently prioritise individuals who:

  • possess relevant experience and expertise in the technical areas our local partners need help with
  • can demonstrate a strong interest in the field of activity of the civil society organisation they will be supporting

Read More about the Data Expert Programme

The areas of focus in 2017

We have partnered with organisations interested in working on the following themes: Data Journalism, Procurement and Extractives Data. These amazing partner organisations will provide Fellows and Experts with guidance, mentorship and expertise in their respective domains.

Programme Theme Location Open slots
Fellowship Extractives Data Sénégal, Côte d’Ivoire Up to 2
Fellowship Procurement Data Wordwide Up to 1
Fellowship Data Journalism Worldwide Up to 2
Fellowship Own focus Worldwide Up to 3
Data Expert Extractives Data Uganda, Tanzania 2

9 months to make an impact

The two programmes will run from April to December 2017, and entail up to 10 days a month of time. While Fellows will be focused on ironing their skills as data trainers and build a community around them, Experts will focus on supporting and training a civil society organisation or newsroom with a specific project. Fellows will receive a monthly stipend of $1,000 USD a month to cover for their work. Experts, who will have a planning with more variations, will receive a total stipend of $10,500 USD over the course of the programme.

In May, both Experts and Fellows will come together during an in-person Summer Camp (location to be decided) to meet their peers, build and share their skills, and learn about the School of Data way of training people on data skills.

What are you waiting for?

Read more about School of Data’s Fellowship or Apply now

Read more about School of Data’s Expert Programme or Apply now

Key Information: Fellowship

  • Available positions: up to 10 fellows. Learn more.
  • Application deadline: April 16th, 2017, midnight GMT+0
  • Duration: From April 24th, 2017 to December 31st, 2017
  • Level of activity: 10 days per month
  • Stipend: $1000 USD per month

Key Information: Data Expert Programme
* Available positions: 2 Experts, in Uganda and Tanzania. Learn more.
* Application deadline: April 16th, 2017, midnight GMT+0
* Duration: From April 24th, 2017 to December 31st, 2017
* Level of activity: up to 10 days per month.
* Stipend: $10,500 USD in total

Key links

About diversity and inclusivity

School of Data is committed to being inclusive in its recruitment practices. Inclusiveness means excluding no one because of race, age, religion, cultural appearance, sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender. We proactively seek to recruit individuals who differ from one another in these characteristics, in the belief that diversity enriches all that we do.

Finally, we are grateful for the support of our partners and funders for making these programmes funded. The School of Data Programme is funded through grants from the following institutions: Internews/USAID, Open Data For Development (World Bank & IDRC), the Hewlett Foundation & the Open Society Foundations, the Natural Resources Governance Institute and Publish What You Pay.

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SNI 2016: ICT and Open Data for Sustainable Development

Malick Lingani - November 23, 2016 in Data Blog, Fellowship

The National ICT Week (SNI) is an annual event in Burkina Faso dedicated to promote ICT. Each year, thousands of people are introduced to the basics of operating computers; impactful ICT initiatives are also rewarded by a host of prizes. This year’s event, the 12th edition, was hosted by the Ministry of Digital Economy from May 31st to June 4th with the theme of ICT and sustainable development.

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The panelists of the conference

The Burkina Open Data Initiative (BODI) was represented by its Deputy Manager, Mr. Malick Tapsoba. He gave an introductory speech that gave the audience a general idea as to what open data is about. He then continued by presenting some of the key accomplishments of BODI so far:

  • NENDO, a web application developed with data on education available on the Burkina Faso open data portal, was presented as an example of how open data can be used to boost accountability in education systems

  • the GIS data collected on drinkable water wells has become a key decision-making tool toward the achievement of ‘Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: ‘Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.’

  • The open election project: a web platform that allowed the visualization of both the 2015 presidential and legislative election results. The visualizations were created almost in real-time, as fast as the data was released by the electoral commission. This project, initiated by BODI, has strongly contributed to the acceptance of the election’s results by all contenders.

Some ongoing projects of BODI were also presented:

  • Open Data and government procurement tracking project. This project aims to improve transparency in the government’s budget spending and to unlock opportunities for enterprises based on market competition.

  • Open Data to monitor both foreign funds and domestic funds: “When the data are not available and open, how can we measure progress toward Sustainable Development Goals?”, said Mr. Tapsoba.

Mr. Tapsoba also announced that a hackathon had been organised to showcase the use of open data and that the results would be revealed at the closing ceremony of SNI. One participant, a student who took part in the hackathon, called for more initiatives like these. He said that he strongly appreciated the way hackathons allow programmers and non-programmers to work together to build data applications and, for him, this helps to demystify ICT in general.

Mr. Sonde Amadou, CEO of Dunya Technology and one of the panelists, spoke about Smart Cities: African cities are growing fast, he said, and Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, is one of them. But Open GIS Data, he continued, is a stumbling block for Smart Cities and work is needed in this area.

Dr. Moumini Savadogo, IUCN Head Country Programme, talked about the IUCN Red List of threatened, critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable species in Africa. This list helps raise awareness and encourages better informed decisions for the conservation of nature, something critical for sustainable development.

The 400 participants of the conference were well served and I was confident that most of them can now be considered as open data advocates. As a School of Data Fellow, I made sure to speak after the panelists, pointing out the importance of strong institutions supported by transparency and accountability (SDG 16) for achieving the 2030 agenda in general. So I encouraged the audience to take a look at Open Data portals, notably BODI and EITI, for transparency in the extractive industry, including the environmental impact. I also mentioned the GODAN initiative for SDG 02 and called the panelist Malick Tapsoba to develop more on that. The open data community of Burkina Faso has made that day one more step on its journey towards building a stronger open data community and data literacy advocates.

Event name: SNI 2016: ICT and Open Data for Sustainable Development
Event type: Conference
Event theme: ICT and Open Data for Sustainable Development
Description: The conference part of Burkina Faso’s National ICT Week (SNI) purpose was to showcase the role of ICT and Open Data to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The conference was designed to bring together ICT Specialists, Academia and Open Data activists to explore and learn about Sustainable development Goals and how ICT and Open Data can contribute to that Agenda
Speakers: Pr. Jean Couldiaty (University of Ouagadougou) Facilitator, Mr. SONDE Amadou (CEO of Dunya Technology), Mr. Malick Tapsoba (BODI Deputy Manager), Dr. Moumini SAVADOGO (IUCN Head Country Programme)
Partners: Burkina Faso Ministry of Digital Economy, Burkina Faso Open Data Initiative (BODI), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), University of Ouagadougou
Location: Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Date: May 31st 2016
Audience: ICT specialists, Open Data and Data Literacy enthusiasts, Students, Journalists
Number of attendees 400
Gender split: 60% men, 40% women
Duration: 1 day
Link to the event website:

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Who works with data in El Salvador?

Omar Luna - November 16, 2016 in Data Blog, Fellowship

For five years, El Salvador has had the Public Information Access Law (PIAL), which requires various kinds of information from all state, municipal and public-private entities —such as statistics, contracts, agreements, plans, etc. These inputs are all managed under the tutelage of PIAL, in an accurate and timely manner.

As well as the social control exerted by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in El Salvador, to ensure compliance with this law, the country’s public administration gave space for the emergence of various bodies, such as the Institute of Access to Public Information (IAPI), the Secretariat of Transparency, Anti-Corruption and Citizen Participation and the Open Government website, which compiles —without periodic revision of official documents and other resources by any government official— more than 92,000 official data documents.

In this five year period, the government showed discontent. Why? They didn’t expect that this legislation would strengthen the journalistic, activist and investigative powers of civil society, who took advantage of this period of time to improve and refine the techniques under which they requested information from the public administration.

Presently, there are few digital skills amongst these initiatives in the country. It has now become essential to ask the question: what is known about data in El Salvador? Are the initiatives that have emerged limited in the scope of their achievements? Can something be done to awaken or consolidate the interest of people in data? To answer these and other questions, I conducted a survey with different research and communication professionals in El Salvador and this is what I found.

The Scope

“I think [data work] has been explored very little (in journalism at least),” said Jimena Aguilar, Salvadoran journalist and researcher, who also assured me that working with data helps provide new perspectives to stories that have been written for some time. One example is Aguilar’s research for La Prensa Grafica (LPG) sections, such as transparency, legal work, social issues, amongst others.

Similarly, I discovered different initiatives that are making efforts to incorporate the data pipeline within their work. For two years, the digital newspaper has explored various national issues (laws, homicides, travel deputies, pensions, etc.) using data. During the same period, Latitudes Foundation processed different aspects of gender issues to determine that violence against women is a multi-causal phenomenon in the country under “Háblame de Respeto” project.

And although resistance persists in government administrations and related institutions to adequately provide the information requested by civil society —deputies, think tanks, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), journalists, amongst others— more people and entities are interested in data work, performing the necessary steps to obtain information that allows them to know the level of pollution in the country, for instance, build socio-economic reports, uncover the history of Salvadoran political candidates and, more broadly, promote the examination of El Salvador’s past in order to understand the present and try to improve the country’s future.


The Limitations

“[Perhaps,] it is having to work from scratch. A lot of carpentry work [too much work for a media outlet professional]”, says Edwin Segura, director for more than 15 years of LPG Datos, one of the main data units in the country, who also told me that often too much time and effort is lost in cleaning false, malicious data provided by different government offices, which often has incomplete or insufficient inputs. Obviously, Segura says, this is with the intention of hindering the work of those working with data in the country.

In addition, there’s something very important that Jimena told me about the data work: “If you are not working as a team, it is difficult to do [data work] in a creative and attractive way.” What she said caught my attention for two reasons: first, although there are platforms that help create visualizations, such as and Tableau, you always need a multidisciplinary approach to jump-start a data project, which is the actual case of El Diario de Hoy data unit that is conformed by eight people specialized in data editing, web design, journalism and other related areas.

And, on the other hand, although there are various national initiatives that work to obtain data, such as Fundación Nacional para el Desarrollo (FUNDE), Latitudes Foundation, etc., there’s a scattered effort to do something with the results, which means that everyone does what they can do to take forward the challenge of working with databases individually, instead of pursuing common goals between them. 

Stones in the Road

When I asked Jimena what are the negative implications of working with data, she was blunt: “(Working with data) is something that is not understood in newsrooms […] [it] takes a lot of time, something that they don’t like to give in newsrooms”. And not only newsrooms, because NGOs and various civil society initiatives are unaware of the skills needed to work with data.

Of the many different internal and external factors affecting the construction of stories with data, I would highlight the following. To begin with, there is a fear and widespread ignorance towards mathematics and basic statistics, so individuals across a wide variety of sectors don’t understand data work; to them, it is a waste of time to learn how to use them in their work. For them, it’s very simple to gather data in press conferences, institutional reports and official statements, which is a mistake because they don’t see how data journalism can help them to tell stories in a different way.

Another issue is that we have an inconsistency in government actions because, although the government discursively supports transparency, their actions are focused on answering requests vaguely rather than proactively releasing good quality data —opening data in this way is hampered with delays. I experienced this first hand when, on many occasions, I asked for information that didn’t match with what I requested or, on the contrary, the government officials sent me different information, in contrast with other information requests sent by other civil society sectors (journalists, researchers, etcetera).

Where Do We Go From Here?

With this context, it becomes essential to begin to make different sectors of civil society aware of the importance of data on specific issues. For that, I find myself designing a series of events with multidisciplinary teams, workshops, activities and presentations that deconstruct the fear of numbers, that currently people have, through the exchange of experience and knowledge. Only then can our civil society groups make visible the invisible and explain the why in all kinds of topics that are discussed in the country.

With this approach, I believe that not only future generations of data practitioners can benefit from my activities, but also those who currently have only indirect contact with it (editors, coordinators, journalists, etc.), whose work can be enhanced by an awareness of data methodologies; for example, by encouraging situational awareness of data in the country, time-saving tools and transcendence of traditional approaches to visualization.

After working for two years with gender issues and historic memory, I have realized that most data practitioners have a self-taught experience; through trainings of various kinds we can overcome internal/external challenges and, in the end, reach common goals. But, we don’t have any formal curricula and all we’ve learned so far comes from a proof and error practices… something we have to improve with time.

And, also, we’re coping with the obstacles imposed by the Government on how data is requested and how the requested information is sent; we also have to constantly justify our work in workplaces where data work is not appreciated. From NGO to media outlets, data journalism is seen as a waste of time because they’re thinking that we don’t produce materials as fast as they desire; so, they don’t appreciate all the effort required to request, clean, analyse and visualise data.

As part of my School of Data Fellowship, I’m supporting the design of an educational curriculum specialising in data journalism for fellow journalists in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, so they may acquire all the necessary skills and knowledge to undertake data histories on specific issues in their home countries. This is a wonderful opportunity to awaken the persistence, passion and skills for doing things with data.

The outlook is challenging. But now that I’m aware of the limits, scope and stones in the way of data journalism in El Salvador and all that remains to be done, I want to move forward. I take the challenge this fellowship has presented me, because as Sandra Crucianelli (2012) would say, “(…) in this blessed profession, not only doesn’t shine people with good connections, even with brilliant minds: for this task only shine the perseverant ones. That’s the difference”.

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Understanding the extractives data community in Burkina Faso

Malick Lingani - November 15, 2016 in Data Blog, Fellowship

As a 2016 School of Data Fellow, my focus area of work is Extractives Data and I work with NRGI to advance data literacy in that sector in Africa, particularly in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso is experiencing a mining boom mainly due to the exploitation of gold. With a production of 5.6 tons of gold in 2008, Burkina Faso rose to 36.5 tons of gold exported in 2015 and the projection for 2016 is about 39.6 tons. In terms of revenues, in 2015, the share of mining in budgetary revenues was estimated at about 170 billion CFA francs (about $280 million). This represents a major development challenge for the country and in particular for the local communities around mining sites. Work to monitor and inform communities on these issues is of paramount importance and it is necessary to see the actors involved in that work.

So, a good starting point was to map the community around Extractives Data in Burkina Faso. From May 26th to July 12th 2016, I was able to achieve a clear understanding of who is involved in what and the challenges they face.

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Burkina Faso main Civil Society Organizations Coalition (SPONG) Annual Assembly

The open data and Extractives community can be split into 3 categories: Government bodies and Institutes, media and individual data journalists, and Civil Society Organisations.

Government bodies and Institutes

The two main relevant government institutions are the Information and Communication Technology Promotion National Agency (ANPTIC), which leads the Open Data community in Burkina Faso along with the Burkina Open Data initiative (BODI). There are also Institutes such as the National Institute of Statistics and Demography (INSD), the Research Institute for Development (IRD) and the Institute of Science of Population (ISSP), which undertake many socio-economic studies on the impact of mining in Burkina Faso. These Government bodies and Institutes are regularly invited by the ANPTIC to meet, in order to strengthen their relationship and encourage them to open the data in their possession.


The media play a key role in covering all events related to extractives. But their work doesn’t stop there. Some media organisations are even performing in-depth analysis of data to fully inform the country’s citizens. Among the Burkinabe investigative journalists, known for their sharp insights on political issues, some took the decision to follow socio-economic courses, with the aim of becoming better armed for achieving transparency and fighting corruption. The gold mining sector, in particular, is a regular subject of investigation., Burkina24, the blog “Le blog sam la touch” (which features all hot subjects in Burkina Faso), l’Indépendant, l’Économiste du Faso (the first economic weekly journal of Burkina Faso), l’Évènement (a monthly newspaper), and Le Pays are major media actors. Individual data journalists, specifically Justin Yarga and Stella Nana, are among those that are shaking the web with interesting insights around Extractives.

Their main data sources are research institutes and some field surveys and some of the journalists use the EITI data portal to communicate their findings.

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)

The main CSOs involved in Extractives Data are:

  • Chambre des mines” (CMB), a non-profit organization representing the mining private sector. CMB collects economic and environmental data from the mining companies;

  • EITI Burkina Faso. When it comes to advancing Open Data in Extractives, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), supported by the World Bank Group through a Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF), is a central actor. Burkina Faso* *produces annual EITI reports that disclose the production and revenue of the extractive industries. The latest report published is from 2013;

  • Open Burkina is a young organization of activists that are active in Burkina Faso’s Open Data community;

  • Open Street Map Burkina is concerned about the spatial distribution of the mining sites;

  • BEOG NEERE, an NGO working for human rights, transparency and accountability has conducted studies on gold mining and child labour in Burkina Faso;

  • Diakonia, Oxfam, Plan Burkina, SOS Sahel International Burkina Faso are major International NGOs that are interested in the social, economic and environmental impact of mining;

  • Publish what you pay – Burkina Faso“. Publish What You Pay is a coalition of CSOs working for transparency and accountability, advocating at the policy level for people to get the most benefit of the flourishing mining sector;

  • ORCADE (Organization for the Reinforcement of Development Capacity) is also advocating at the policy level for open contracts and for the adoption of a mining code that is beneficial to local communities.

Data availability and trainings as the main challenge

Several events gather the community through the year. I have been fortunate enough to attend some of this year’s major events:

  • SEMICA, I attended the SEMICA (the annual gathering of actors involved in mining and energy), held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso from May 26th to May 28th.

  • The SNI, (the National ICT Week) which took place in Ouagadougou from 31st of May to the 4th of June, was also a great place to meet journalists and data journalists interested in mining and sustainable development.

  • The 3rd event I attended was the General Assembly of SPONG (the main coalition of Civil Society Organizations in Burkina Faso) held in Ouagadougou the 31st of May.

I use these opportunities to administer questionnaires to the people I met at these events, in order to get some insight into their relationship with other actors in the field, the challenges they face in their work and their needs.

As revealed by the answers to the questionnaire, the main challenge of this otherwise vibrant community is still to get companies to release data. Building a strong relationship among community members has helped overcome this issue. “We are facing difficulties to convince data producers to shake things up. But we take it more as a challenge :-)”, said Idriss Tinto, technical manager at BODI. Mr Tinto continued by pointing to the need of more funds to overcome that challenge.

Capacity building is also one the recurrent needs expressed by members of the community. “Getting more access to data and a more tailored and complete training on data processing and data analysis are the main needs”; said Abdou Zouré, Editor-in-chief at Burkina24. Inna Guenda-Segueda, communication manager at CMB, pointed to the need of training on the process to collect data as disaggregated as possible from mining companies. Hence, specific trainings on the data pipeline are needed to support both data journalists and Civil Society Organizations.

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