As information becomes rapidly available, how can civil society make sense of it all? More importantly, how can civil society use the information to gain power and begin to hold those in positions of authority accountable?
This was the focus of a workshop run by the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) during the Highway Africa conference, held in Grahamstown recently. Highway Africa is an amazing event, which - while focusing on vital themes such as media freedom and Information and Communication technologies - has become the largest annual gathering of African journalists in the world.
Various technology tools have been built to not only enhance access to information but to also make it easier for users to interpret that information. During the workshop, two tools were showcased – WaziMap and Agenda Setter. The goal was not just to introduce new tools, but to showcase how technology and accountability fit together, and the active role civil society can play in ensuring a positive relationship between the two. So, what are they?:“Wazimap, from the Xhosa word ulwazi for knowledge, is a joint project by Media Monitoring Africa and Code for South Africa that provides easy access to South African census and elections data.”
Agenda Setter is part of an “open source, easy-to-use toolkit of analytical software for African journalism observatories to keep media institutions honest, help improve media professionalism and promote quality journalism.” It helps users to track what journalists and politicians are tweeting about and compare gauge who between the two is setting the news agenda.
Attended by journalists and activists, the interactive workshop was divided into two segments – discussion and practical, with the former focusing on ATI and Open Data trends across Africa. The latter part was devoted to practicals - and practical skills learning kept the participants excited and invested:
This workshop is part of a broad series of activities ODAC will be undertaking over the next few months to contextualise the role of open data for accountability in the age of the Open Government Partnership. We will be completing this work with the assistance of Making All Voices Count and a variety of civil society partners.
Wellington Radu (MMA) and Levi Kabwato (ODAC) ran the workshop.
To track this specific workshop discussion, please see: #MMAODAC