Transforming lives……. by Lizzy Whitehead, UK Department for International Development

transforming lives

I’m inspired by the notion that we’re all surrounded by ‘things’ which could transform into
something entirely different, and better.

Extracting oil, gas and minerals is based on the theory that you take one thing (e.g. oil)
and turn it into something else (kerosene). Or you take natural resources below the ground
and turn them into a profitable resource above ground. Decision makers in resource rich
developing countries are faced with many challenges, many transformational choices. To
extract or not? Spend profits or save? Encourage foreign investors or not? Choices are
made all along the resource chain, from geo-mapping to licenses to investment choices
and public spending – all of which will have an impact on poor people living in resource rich
countries.

For the last few months I’ve been inspired by a group of people (Extractive Industries
Transparency Initiative, Revenue Watch Institute, UK Department for International
Development, Rewired State and the World Bank Institute). We’ve come together to work
on a challenge – to take some of the complexity described above and find ways of making
it meaningful to poor people. We want to take complex ‘data’ on oil, gas and mining and
create tools to transform it into stories. Stories which make links between extractives (oil,
gas and mining) and poor people living in resource rich countries.

We want to turn the data into something meaningful so that people can start to demand
accountability from their governments. We hope to inspire a new generation of ‘story
tellers’ who can take messages to a wide range of people in a way which makes sense to
them. For some, that might mean transforming data into a programme for a website. Web
tools like budgiT in Nigeria allow people to analyse complex information and turn it into
something visual and compelling. Data visualisations like this one by Global Witness and
the Open Knowledge Foundation turn complex issues into compelling narratives.

Our goal is to show people how to make the most of the data available on oil, gas and
mining. We want to create demonstration tools which allow people to tell a story about the
data. We want to bring those tools to the right people – like National Coordinators who lead
Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative processes all over the world. We also want to
work with journalists and civil society groups in resource rich developing countries. They
can start to share data stories and build an interest in transparency and accountability.

Our data tools are being created through a range of #followthedata events in London,
Lagos and Sydney between now and June 2013. We’ll be showcasing our journey and our
products at the Mining for Development Conference, the Extractive Industries Transparency
Initiative Global conference and the G8, where the UK will shine a light on transparency.

We’re in an era of transformational technology. More and more organisations are investing
in technology to raise standards of transparency – like Global Integrity, the Omidyar
Network and Random Hacks of Kindness.

Follow our journey, or better still, be part of it. Transform the future of transparency and
accountability.

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