Workshop @ Transparency International Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

DSCF4416On our last intervention in this busy week in Phnom Penh, we were hosted by Transparency International Cambodia. The office has been created in 2010 and, as the organisation does worldwide, its team works actively in the south-east asian country promoting transparency and fighting against corruption. A practical example of their activities consists on the adoption of the platform for campaigning against bribery, sadly a recurrent subject in the cambodian daily life.

The session was a great opportunity to discuss with the team and around thirty attendees (mostly students and Human Rights advocates) about how data and its proper visualisation can be used to explore society issues. Methodologies and tools for collecting and sharing information were topics that the participants were interested to learn more about. Along this line OpenDataKit was presented by one of them; an open-source suite of tools that helps organizations author, field, and manage mobile data collection solutions. Also, OKFN’s project CKAN could be a choice for those organisations willing to make the step and release their data following the open definition.

DSCF4423Although the concept of Open Data was in general not well known among the participants, fact is that the way they are already working shares a lot of the principles behind it. A big attention was raised on the practical part, where we went hands on with some online visualisation tools: CartoDB and Datawrapper.

Closing our stay in Cambodia where we met many enthusiastic Human Rights advocates and activists, we head now north and invite you to stay tuned for the next steps.

Slides of the presentation
Slides of the presentation

Workshops @DMC and @GIZ, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

DSCF4211The Department of Media and Communication (DMC) of the Royal University of Phnom Penh is the single education centre across Cambodia providing a training ground for journalists and communication practitioners. The director and faculty members have a big interest in Data journalism and we were asked to present the topic at the weekly guest lecture last friday. We started researching Data journalism some weeks ago when we documented journalism++, so this invitation was a great opportunity to extend our presentation with new material and discuss with around sixty DMC cambodian students, from all of the four courses that compose their studies. The interest they showed was great and although the topic is new, the session was very constructive.

DSCF4244But the day was not over yet, since we conducted another session in the afternoon. This time for the Civil Peace Service (CPS) group of the GIZ, the german national agency for international cooperation which focus its work in developing countries. The CPS team in Cambodia partners with cambodian civil society and government institutions to carry out outreach and education about the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The expectations of this smaller group of attendees were basically to learn more about tools and methodologies available for them to work more efficiently with the data they collect. Visualisation and management of data was also a central point of the debate. After speaking about the insights of existing Open Data platforms, we experienced that NGOs in Phnom Penh working on similar issues could actually profit from a common database to share documentation. Participants agreed that such a solution could facilitate collaborative work and the way their generated contents get published.

Slides of the presentation
Slides of the presentation

Meeting @ Open Development Cambodia , Phnom Penh, Cambodia

ODC-LogoIf you happen to search for Open Data initiatives in Cambodia, Open Development Cambodia is definitely going to appear on the top of the results list. Started in 2011 as a project under the activities of the EWMI and on the way to be registered as a NGO, ODC represents the most active effort in the South-East-Asian country to collect, use and share data for social improvement.

With a strong philosophy of objectivity and independence, the team does not focus on advocacy in particular sectors nor does it pursue any agenda, other than aggregating and offering information to the public in easily accessible forms. Self-defined as an intersection between NGO, media platform, and think-thank, ODC concentrates its resources on aggregating data (which necessarily must be already available somewhere in the public domain) and creating objective briefings, maps, and graphics available for everyone to download, analyse and re-use. Sources are quoted and even the methodology they employed to create these contents is transparent and can be found on their site. That is what can be understood as an open way of working.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-01-08 um 15.35.44Among other contents, we learned about their forest cover page. At the heart of the page are animated forest cover change maps developed based on analysis of satellite imagery released in public domain by NASA. These maps and accompanying graphics provides information about the extent and rate of Cambodia’s forest cover change over the past 40 years. This and other information found on the site has been already used by NGOs, bloggers, journalists, researchers, grassroots groups, rights advocates and even government technocrats and investors to inform their research, reporting, analysis, and planning. As an example, the local rights-focused website uses maps from ODC as base layers on which they add other analysis. An interesting statistic: since its creation, their website has counted visits from users from almost every country and state of the world, although the majority of users are Cambodians.

All this, in a country whose administration is not particularly supportive when it comes to releasing data to the public domain or sharing information with its citizens. It is important to note that there is currently no Freedom of Information laws in Cambodia, even an attempt to pass a draft law was rejected in January 2013. At the time we are writing these lines, there is no Open Data platform initiated or planned by the government.

PRAJ2Jul2013bHowever, the remarkable work of organisations such as ODC and the presence of a newly created local chapter of the OKFN are examples of the current will to fill the gap and realise a positive development of openness and transparency for Cambodia. Talking about what is to come, ODC team will add interesting new features on their platform, such as and API, to improve user experience and more effective access to their aggregated datasets. The site will also be available in Khmer language within the next few months.