Tag: ttccamp13


Serving Data @ NetTuesday

Thank you to TechSoup for inviting me to participate the Net Tuesday panel all about Open Data. I’ve collected some discussed reasons for and against Open Data, plus provided a resource list on privacy and security research into data sharing. During the chat, we also dug into the roots of ‘data owners’ and ‘consumers’. I think we need to talk about some barriers in models and organizations, before we can ask folks to be more open.

In Service….

It was mentioned at the event that some non-profits workers have bias: Citizens who ‘consume’ their services don’t have the ability to measure, give context or give feedback with the level of comprehension or respect required. For me this was a culture shock moment, I asked back:

“what is the mission and why are people so removed from whom they are supposed to be serving”.

Enabling citizen voices is a huge theme in my open career. The idea that a ‘citizen’ as a ‘widget’ and not a participant in this journey is archaic. This model or perception that a ‘citizen’ is only a ‘consumer’ of some product of an ‘non-profit’ or ‘non-governmental organization’ is shocking. Who are we serving? It sounds like a case of the brand coming before the mission. This is why I am a passionate about Open Knowledge via OKF, an Ushahidian fangirl and increasingly excited about projects like Feedback Labs. I think that open data is part of that journey of leveling the field and making it a conversation with participants. Simply put: citizens can and should be the participant, community, the partner, the funder, and the data owner/remixer.

There was a great blog about leadership and humility posted to the Harvard Business Review. (I think it applies to our work.) We need to have some humility and honour those we serve.

When we think about the way forward for small budgeted non-profits and how they can take advantage of open data and even share their data, it means other changes in how we work. Every organization has the ability to build their own open data community helpers. This means building a plan to find and on board these types of participants. It is a knowledge gift.

Why Non-profits won’t share

Bill Morris (211ontario.ca) shared thoughts on what are some of the barriers & responses to sharing Open Data.

  • Competition
  • Complicate data structures
  • What’s in it for me? What is the Value to a NFP to share data
  • Turf
  • Time, resources and focus
  • Perceived ownership
  • Licenses
  • risk of privacy and security issues

Our list of why to share

  • Use the best collective brainpower
  • Avoid duplication of effort
  • Cross-check your assumptions, bias
  • Obtain complimentary datasets to provide nuance
  • Identify gaps
  • more info could help with better decision making
  • tell the story

(And, of course, all the beautiful items like – inclusive, transparent and accountable.)

(NOTE: I purposely did not review the Sunlight Foundation list until after the event so cross-check our thoughts. See the Reasons not to release data gdoc.)

Thinking about Privacy and Security with datasets

For the past few months, I’ve been working on Data Cleaning Guidelines for the Ushahidi Community. At Info Activism Camp I was able to get some help testing my assumptions with folks from Datakind and OKFN. Then, I reviewed the following documents to help consider what recommendations we should collectively give citizen mappers:

Standby Task Force: Data Protection Standards 2.0
ICT4Peace – The potential and Challenges of Open Data for Crisis Information Management and Aid Efficiency
Oxfam: Evolution of Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
UNOCHA – Humanitarianism in a Network Age

ICRC: Professional Standards for Protection Work Carried out by Humanitarian and Human Rights actors in armed conflict and other situations of violence.
This list really struck me as a way to consider what types of data we can share.

  • Necessity & capacity
  • Data protection laws
  • Do no harm
  • Bias/non-discrimination (objective information/processing)
  • Quality check/reliability

(This was my third time at a Net Tuesday speaking. They are fantastic growing community. I hope my notes are helpful.)


Information wants to be complex

(Cross-posted from the Ushahidi blog)

Questions lead to answers that lead to more questions. Tactical Tech Info Activism Camp has a number of tracks: Documentation, Investigation, Curation, and Beautiful Troublemakers. I joined the “microscopes are us” evidence team aka Documentation. We’ve spent the week in brain strain grappling with the nature of problem-solving, decision-making, ethics, analysis and documentation.

Our mighty facilitators built the sessions based on real projects and examples. Our community of participants infused it with their project examples. It is often within the scenarios that the rich detail inspires and challenges us. As one participant opined: “Information wants to be complex” and another stated: “Information sometimes has a force of will.”

What would you do?

Our Thursday discussion focused on Ethics in Documentation. These examples are about “personal identifying information” and “informed consent”.



Questions and Statements from the Documentation Discussions

Each of us had various questions and alternate viewpoints:

How do organizations and individuals manage risk?
Moral decisions are circumstantial.
We are not longer gatekeepers of information.
Who’s data is it anyway?
Ethical decisions can change over time.
Sometimes you need to take a risk when conflicted on ethics.
Be prepared to defend and stick to a decision.
Information belongs to the person, not to us. Be responsible.
How can we make information powerful and use it to make change on the ground?

Next Steps:

I suggest that we collectively create an Ethics toolkit to help keep the momentum of the discussion. As an output of this camp, I am creating further guidelines for using Ushahidi for our community. I will include ethical scenarios based on our work. This idea directly comes from my experiences here.

Thanks to all the participants and organizers.


Camping with Info Activism

Lake Orta, Novara, Piedmont, Italy.

Eddie, the peacock, is in the courtyard at Centro d’ompio. We are eating breakfast and getting ready for another day of learning and sharing. I’m at Info Activism camp with 138 other folks from 48 countries. Participatory sessions range from Documentation, Curation, Investigation and Beautiful Troublemakers. I’ve joined documentation because I want to focus on storytelling with purpose. Afternoons are full of skillshares. So far I’ve been in a PGP and digital security learn-in as well as a Data cleanup workshop getting regex 101. Sublime Text and I are are now friends.


Every day I send the Tactical Tech’s Security in a Box to community members. I’m here to polish up and learn new skills to keep on that journey. Global events really inspire me. We, the beautiful troublemakers, work around the world to connect humans and tech for social good. It is sometimes lonely path, so these times that we are together are precious from sunrise to sunset.

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