Drilling Down into the Data -Harriet Macdonald-Walker, Department of International Development

Last weekend (4-5th May) the follow the data journey began. DFID alongside Rewired State,  World Bank Institute, Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), and Revenue Watch Institute hosted our first Hackathon.

We welcomed 10 developers to the Westminster Hub in London, and asked them to spend the weekend working alongside extractive industry experts, Open Data specialists and DFID economists to transform publicly available global extractives data into user friendly data apps and tools.

A few days before the hackathon, we gave the developers three challenges, and access to a database of extractives data- providing them with the time needed to get to grips with the data, and to begin thinking about how they could tackle these challenges.

The first day began with a morning of introductions, aimed to brief the developers on what kind of products we were looking for. Presentations included:

  1. ‘Linking the extractives industry to poverty alleviation’
    DFID representatives
  2. Introductions from Judges, including data user perspectives on the importance of creating data tools- Marinke VanRiet, International Director of PWYP, Naomi smith , Earth Security Initiative and Luke Balleny, Thomson Reuters Foundation
  3. Using trade to examine the new political economy of resources-
    Jaako Kooroshy and Felix Preston – Senior Research Fellows, Chatham House.

The rest of the first day was spent analysing and sorting through the data available, brainstorming ideas and settling down into teams.
With decisions made and the sun setting over London, fuelled by Pizza and coke, the developers worked into the night…

Sunday 4th May
After just a few hours’ sleep at the hub, and with time running out, the developers remained concentrated, heads down, working hard to finalise their product before ‘show and tell’.
At 3.30pm the room began to fill with journalists, extractive and open data experts, and other developers – all eager to see what had been created in the last 24 hours. Among those attending were representatives from Global Witness, PWYP, ONE, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and Synergy Global.

The developers did not disappoint, presenting us with three impressive apps:

Team 1- API-fy

The creation of an API (online database of records) that draws data from a variety of datasets and holds data in a central depository. Using the API the team then created virtual country and company cards, almost like top trumps- this enabled clear comparisons to be made across countries and companies. One particular strength of the product was that it identified and highlighted gaps where more data is needed.

Team 2: Comparethemap.com

The team used data to explore the relationship between the extractives industry and poverty alleviation. The team used data from GapMinder and EITI to create graphs and maps which enabled citizens to compare extractives revenues with poverty indicators.

The concept of a game that would enable similar comparisons was also presented but the developers were unable to create the product this weekend due to challenges encountered in data manipulation

Team 3: Fact Cache
A clever yet simple approach, this ‘team’ or impressive one man band, designed an online platform that held ‘facts’ taken from extractives/poverty alleviation data. The idea behind the webpage was to focus on one set of data or one event. Visitors to the site would be encouraged to analyse data and submit their ‘fact’s which could be easily disseminated via social media platforms.There was discussion around the validity of these facts and how the concept could be developed further, perhaps via a fact quality voting function.

And the prizes went too…..!
After much diliberation our judges (now joined by Tim Davies, Pratical Participation and Justine De Davila, DFID) , presented the following awards:

Winner of ‘Best Concept’: Fact Cache
Winner of ‘Best Potential Impact’:  API-fy
Winner of ‘Best Response to the Challenge’: Comparethemap.com

Thanks to the enthusiasm and expertise of all those who attended, the weekend was a success. I am looking forward to seeing what is produced next week at our second Follow the Data hackathon in Lagos (May 13-14th).



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