Friday, 25 Jul 2014

Working with journalists, NGOs and academics to tell better stories with data


Eva Constantaras, Data Journalism Advisor for Internews, recently gave a presentation at the British Council in Colombo, Sri Lanka titled, “Open Data for Social Innovation,” that looked at how open data has created the possibility of discovering new connections between social, political, economic, technological and environmental issues and their impact.

Constantaras was interviewed in Colombo by Trisha Packir of PNN, where she discussed Internews’ data journalism projects in countries such as Kenya, Sri Lanka and Palestine. Watch a video of the interview.

“Recently I’ve run a workshop in Palestine focused on how economic data can improve understanding of employment issues and GDP,” said Constantaras in the interview. “Right before the elections in Afghanistan, we looked at how we could improve coverage of development issues. And we’ve also worked in places like Kenya, focused on health, where healthcare especially for vulnerable groups is a serious concern.”

Constantaras says the data journalism has become more of a focus recently because of the emerging availability of data and tools. “There are technologists out there that are building tools. There are free tools to get data off the web. There are free tools to create simple visualizations and then there’s free software to broadcast your message. So it just makes information and data a lot more accessible to ordinary citizens.”

With the greater availability of data, there is also the need to verify that the data is accurate. “So, I encourage that person-to-person contact,” says Constantaras. “If you find a tool or a data set that you’re not sure about, you don’t know where it came from, that is worth investigating… using open source software and using open data is never something you really want to do on your own. You want to do it as part of a community that is also concerned about the same issue.”

Open data and open source tools have become a critical component of encouraging a healthy information ecosystem says Constantaras. “…citizens are actively seeking out data and better information to make better decisions to improve their lives.

“And as citizens demand more and better information, and journalists and NGOs look for sources of information, that has also inspired NGOs and governments and academics to provide more and better data. Technologists are creating open source tools to make that data more accessible, to make visualizations possible, to get that information out there at a very low cost to citizens. So, I think open source is really playing a key role in this process of making everybody more informed about global issues and more engaged in making better decisions.”

Watch a video of Eva Constantaras’ presentation at the British Council on Open Data for Social Innovation.

More on data journalism:

Listen to an audio interview of Eva Constantaras by Alex Fink, Editor & Host at The OKCast.

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