Tag: #iccm


Data Soup Ingredients (feelings, methods and next steps)

I’m a big fan of soup. Really, it is magic, you add all kinds of ingredients into a pot and hopefully get a “worthy soup”. Sometimes I think we should take the cooking smarts and apply it to our work. What are the key ingredients and tactics to activate Open Data? Surely, you’ve had a sad pot of soup before (eg. too much salt, not enough spice, etc.) It is really some new ground, but I think there are some common sense practices that need to be discussed. So, instead of ‘nuts and bolts’, let’s talk about how we get to the ingredients to make a decent plan (a pot of great soup) to feed our brains and guide our decisions.

Tonight I’m participating in the ICT4D London Panel:
Eliza Anyangwe of ICT4D London Meetup/Guardian Development asked that we prepare the following:

…go beyond gushing about how great open data is and stimulate thought about areas in need of improvement and strategies to get us there. The topic: what would happen if data quality is not addressed?

What do you see as the challenges of open data for development? How can we as a community get around them?

I decided to focus on challenges and things that we can do to build community:


It might seem really ‘off’ to talk about ‘Feelings’ when we talk about open data, but we should. Do we Trust the data? Do we trust the sources/collection methods? Do the consumers/users understand the data and, most of all, can we ‘believe’ that we can base our decisions on big issues like nutrition planning or humanitarian responses? If we don’t talk about assumptions or talk about ‘data corrupts humans and humans corrupt data’ feelings, then we might be setting ourselves up for data fail. How do we build ‘trust’?

At the Open Government Partnership Summit, I had the chance to meet Chuks Ojidoh of ReclaimNaija project from Nigeria. He challenged assumptions about data collection and how communities ‘on the ground’ who were supposed to be served by ‘data’ felt about it. To sum: people don’t trust the data and won’t trust it unless they are involved in the data collection. And, the concept of central ‘firm’ datasets on, for example, budgets, needs to be community sourced council by council. Plus, people want to give feedback on the data and interact with it. This is a good reason to share, whenever possible, the datasets in an open fashion. It helps us be accountable and transparent plus gives us the ability to remix and use data.

So, there we have it: feelings! Until we talk more about how we will help people collect basic datasets and involve citizens (including digital literacy), then we won’t really get an accurate open data picture. I firmly believe that the ‘open data movement’ as it stands today will be greatly reshaped by folks like BudgIT from Nigeria and ReclaimNaija.

(Chuks shared this research with me this great article from Dr. Steven Livingston on Africa’s Information Revolution.)

Method to Madness

From data collection methods (sms, maps, spreadsheets, analog paper) to data ethics, privacy/security and protection, we need to grapple more with “methods to our madness’. This also includes the heavy topic: How can we have feedback loops and iterate/improve data. Of course, I fall into the category of “open data” allows people to use and remix data, but this does not come without a heavy filter of common sense.


What is a clean dataset?

After working on the Uchaguzi Kenyan Election project, I was on a mission to find a way to open up the Ushahidi datasets, I started to research how to create a Clean DataSet Guidelines list (created with help from Okfn, Datakind and Groundtruth Initiative). I think that there are many people trying to figure this out. If we had some standards and means to clean data, then people may be more comfortable sharing it. This does not minimize the risk of human error. A quick summary of how to get to a cleaner dataset: remove names, phone numbers, geolocation, and sensitive information. Challenging isn’t it? What happens when you remove this and it affects a decision negatively? (See some resources on this topic.)

One important thing that we did during the election project was to have a Data quality team reviewing the data in real-time. This team involved researchers, software developers and subject matter experts. Most of these people were community participants. While this might not be possible for all projects, it is a road forward on short sprint ones until organizations reorganize to do it themselves.

To the machines

Along with the Data Science for Social Good Fellows and my (then) Ushahidi colleagues, I spent the summer assisting a Data cleaning project. How can we use machine learning to help us build clean data sets? How can we clean datasets to know include personally identifiable information? What are some of the data ethics that we can infuse in our methods?

Details on that project:

Project background

While machines cannot replace the Human API (your eyes), it is a start. There is much improvement to be done on this.


Improving the Recipe

The biggest ingredient that I think needs to be addressed is the “how’. A widespread group of people from various disciplines and regions need to have the capacity to be data makers. This means that we have digital literacy barriers combined with data literacy. At OKFN, we have the School of Data to help with this.

Last week, together with my colleague, Michael Bauer, and a few community members, we held an experimental training workshop. Our goal was to give people of menu of data skills from data cleaning, how to use spreadsheets, data visualization 101 and how to geo-code. These are really tough skills to integrate into all our workflows. For early adopters, I am sure that these are easy, but how to we get the next 1000 datamakers in civil society and governments? I was actually approached by someone thanking us for giving them a safe and equal space to learn these important things. Datamaking should not be some magical thing that is inaccessible to average people doing great work. It should be every day soup making: given the ingredients, some basic skills, and time to learn/test/iterate, there is a chance that we can fill this gap.

Steve and SCODA
(Steve of Devint training folks at the International Crisismappers Conference)

When we talk about challenges and opportunities, there are some important next steps to consider: Spaces to learn for free, mentors to help us on our data journey and checks/balances on data curation/quality.


Putting on our Training Hats!

You’re invited to a skillshare pre-conference day with fellow Crisismappers. The International Conference of CrisisMappers (ICCM) will be held November 18 – 22, 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya. (About the full ICCM Conference.)

If you just want to attend the pre-conference training, you are very welcome! It is open to EVERYONE for a small fee ($50.00) paid to the ICCM conference. The trainers and speakers are local and national leaders. We hope you will join us at the ihub on Tuesday, November 19, 2013.

See more ihub and Ushahidi pics

About the Training

ICCM Training Day will have 4 tracks: Mobile/Security, Maps, Data and Knowledge. Each track will have sub-sessions and directed training. Participants can elect to join in one whole track or pick the individual sessions within the tracks. The purpose of this to give more hands-on training and allow folks to learn/share in smaller groups.

This is our ICCM Pre-conference day Draft Schedule. (Note it will be updated in the coming days)
We will add more details about the sessions and the bios of the speakers/trainers here.

How can I join?

To Join you can sign up for the Crisismappers Network, then click “ICCM 2013″. There you will find details about the registration login.

If you have any outstanding questions, send a note to Heatherleson @ gmail DOT com with the subject line – ICCM Pre-Conference Help wanted. Then, complete the registration. If you have questions about the full conference – please contact melissa at crisismappers dot net.

Outreach help wanted

We have more space open for the pre-conference training, Can you reblog my post or tweet this to your local communities? The sessions will offer a breadth of knowledge and expertise from security to research to map and data. We know folks will want to dig in and learn.


Join @crisismappers Pre-conference training- Nairobi – Nov. 19th. All welcome. Please register. Details: http://bit.ly/17fSDeE


Thanks a million to my fellow trainers, to ihub/ ihub research for hosting us and for Ushahidi (love you guys) for keeping us in food and drink!


Global Community: the road to learning

For the past 3 years, I have focused on building global community via maps, hacks and data. The journey has introduced me to a number of communities plus I’ve been fortunate to lead efforts in a few great spaces.

For the past month, I’ve been head down at Open Knowledge Foundation working on the Open Data Partnership for Development project as well as learning all about Open Knowledge Foundations’ communities and networks. We have the amazing opportunity to activate everything from open data to open government to open science to open glam (galleries, libraries, archives and museums.) Having library training background, I’ve always thought that the Internet opens up large borderless communities, much like the old Mechanics Institutes*. It gives us a chance to connect with fellow leaders and support the unusual suspects who want to use new technologies to disrupt and activate change.

stools aiweiwei
(Stools by Ai WeiWei)

Some might consider it a tall order to involve citizens and technology to activate change. I see it as an art. What if we looked at it differently? Many of us are focusing on building stuff and showing the potential of opening data, creating apps and convening at hackathons/sprints. Others are focused on analyzing our methods. Great! We need to have real-time analysis/research in all our projects. Giving evidence and showing impact is mandatory as we move forward. ABC: Always be communicating/changing. Some folks make a career out of highlighting the faults in the old systems and faults in attempts to use new technology to see the world and the information overload in a new way. Also, great. The truth is: None of us are getting it right, yet. But, we are trying.

Meeting, Making and Showing

In the next month, I am going on a whirlwind of meeting, making and showing. Each of these spaces involve communities of folks trying to use policy, information, maps, hacks, data and more to open up our world. It is a huge privilege to participate and learn. I’ll try to post some ‘Dispatches’ as I have done at previous events:

1. Mozilla Festival – London, UK October 25-27, 2013.
MozFest is a home for me. I’ve attended each of the fests including its predecessor (Drumbeat). Imagine rooms full of brilliance in everything from Open Hardware to Open News to Open Internet. My brain and heart will burst with happiness in seeing old friends and digging into learning while making stuff. There are few events that are this interactive. The Open Knowledge Team will be hosting a few sessions (Building collaboration across the open space and a Data Expedition)

2. Open Government Partnership Summit – London, UK October 29 – November 1, 2013
The OGP summit connects governments and civil society communities to discuss policy and demonstrate the latest actions by country, topic and movement. The Open Data Partnership for Development is focused on helping connect governments and civil society folks. My goal will be to meet others on this journey and see how I can help support their efforts. As well, the Open Knowledge Foundation team will be supporting the Civil Society Day.

3. International Conference of Crisis Mappers – Nairobi, Kenya November 18 – 22, 2013
The Crisis Mappers community is one of the most amazing ones that I’ve encountered. Each of us from business to open source to government and academic want to learn the best ways to use data, mobiles, informatics and maps to aid crisis response. We will meet for a week of training, ignite talks and collaboration/simulation. The opportunity to do this in Kenya is amazing. My heart remains in East Africa. Ushahidi was born there and has inspired so many of us to consider how citizens can and should be involved in the conversation. I’ll be running a full day training session with 4 tracks: Maps, data, mobile and knowledge. There are many community leaders helping out, including my colleague Michael Bauer of the School of Data.

I am really look forward to involving more people in each of these communities.

Here’s to amazing building and making. I am more than certain that the next weeks will shape the coming year and far beyond!

*On Mechanic’s Institutes: I had a membership at the Atwater Mechanic’s Institute in Montreal, Canada. I loved that I could use a library and get training. It is the way forward: we need to train a digital network of new leaders to use the power of technical skills to tell stories and use data/software to activate new ideas/change in their communities.

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