Open Data for Africa Platform, Silent Data Revolution in MENA and Data Strategies #DataDigest

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This week have a look at the just completed Open Data for Africa platform and learn more about the brewing open data revolution in the MENA region. There is some great insight into the need for the Open Data movement to be more inclusive as well as explanations of why big data gathering should be more strategic.

Open Data

The powerful ‘Open Data for Africa’ platform is now available across the continent
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has just completed the last phase of its Open Data for Africa platform after deployments in Benin, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Kenya, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, and Togo. The platform has been rolled out to 54 African countries and will support the gathering, access, management and analysis of quality data from African countries. It is part of the AfDB’s ‘Africa Information Highway’ initiative, which enabled the introduction of live data links between the AfDB, National Statistical Offices, Central Banks and relevant ministries in all 54 countries.

Is Open Data Just A Flash in the Pan Movement?
In this post Madeleine Clark, an AidData Summer Fellow, talks about the need for open data programs to be responsive to citizens needs. The Open Aid Partnership, held Open Nepal Week’s Data Literacy Bootcamp, which gathered over 80 Nepali journalists, developers, coders, and civil society representatives to find, extract, and analyze and visualize public data. A short competition also enabled participants to put what they learnt to practical use by conceptualizing business plans. However, she laments that issues of inclusivity, representation and participation across society remain largely ignored in spite of the rapid growth of the Open Data movement even though they should be placed at the front and centre.

A silent data revolution in the Arab World
This World Bank blog post by Paolo Verme explains how the 2011 Arab Revolution also led to a lesser recognised cultural revolution with regard to open data. It has facilitated the opening up of access to good quality raw data from statistical agencies in North Africa and the Middle East, which is being shared with individuals, institutions and the public at large. For example, The National Statistical Institute (NSI) of Tunisia has posted the Household Income and Consumption Surveys (HICSs) and Labor Force Surveys (LFSs) becoming the first agency in the region to offer access to such comprehensive data. A July 2012 approved decree by the Central Statistical Organization of Yemen now allows full access to its data to the public and Morocco has started to provide various organizations access to data based on bilateral agreements. Libya, Djibouti and Jordan have also granted restricted access to micro data to selected individuals and organizations.

Big Data

The Magic of Finding and Presenting Compelling Data
In this Chronicle of Philanthropy post Matthew Scharpnick argues that despite the big data hype for every new piece of valuable data, a lot more useless data surrounds and obscures it making it challenging to find useful insights. He says that organizations must understand what stories they want to tell with their data before gathering data sets.  While it’s important to let the data collections speak for themselves it’s equally important to strategically gather the right kinds of data with an understanding of how they can become insightful when tied to larger narratives. Some examples of NGOs using data visualization to tell important stories are also given.