Oct 14

Big, BIG, Data Warbles

Abigail Leffler perchs on the development branch and broods over the content analysis of multilingual tweets and posts

Any collection of signs systematically arranged (or the absence thereof) can be read and interpreted. Edgar Allan Poe’s A Dream within a Dream, Edvard Munch’s The Scream painting, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a tiger’s territorial markings in the Amur region, mobile phone traffic in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and all the electronic footprints we ever leave behind by virtue of our Internet usage are examples of this. The key point is that, in our search for patterns or for elements that maintain or break patterns in a sample, we are searching for clues to predicting behaviour or finding trends and hidden messages.

Now for the sake of simplicity and to keep true to the title of this post, let us alight on the analysis and derivation of meaning (a.k.a. interpretation) of our Internet footprints. Let us, furthermore, focus on blogging and microblogging in the context of communication for development.

How do we analyse data from blogs and microblogs? We could be looking at quantitative methods such as collecting the amount of tweets and posts and the frequency thereof, and further we could be looking at the geographical distribution of such entries or at the speed at which they come during or after an event. We could consider which entries are the most influential within a specific period of time. We could also be looking into the qualitative content of such data, and we could be looking into a keyword analysis to gauge sentiments or determine key topics in discourse. And now let us expand on this last point. What are the caveats we need to bear in mind when the analysis is conducted within a globalised, multicultural environment, and where tweets and posts come in forms as diverse as chatter, clucks, quacks, chirps, hoots, coos and caws?

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Oct 14

New open Knowledge hub launched today

Open development initiatives – examples by Catarina Nilsson.

The use of open data in development seems to increase more and more. The other day we published a piece about Sweden launching a new version of Open Aid, an open source site visualising aid data. Today we were reached by the news that a new open data hub is launched today at the Open Development Camp held in Amsterdam.

The new hub will focus on various perspectives on development and – this is interesting! – make sure to use research results from low income countries.

Working as a platform for sharing data the hub wants to improve access to content that “supports evidence-informed policy making and practice by development actors”. Hopefully policymakers in relevant contexts will get to know about and use the hub to stay informed about research that relates to their area.

For now, the Institute of Development Studies are pulling data from three of their services to the project, these are ELDIS, BRIDGE and the British Library for Development Studies.

The Oriel Open Knowledge Hub is available here: www.okhub.org

Oct 14

Visualising aid – Sweden’s Open Aid project

Catarina Nilsson presents a practical application of open data in development.

The Swedish government through the ministry for foreign affairs in collaboration with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) launched the website www.openaid.se in 2011. The idea was to make the whole chain of events in a development aid contribution available to the public, with transparency as a leading principle.
In line with the increased use of open data www.openaid.se was recently developed and updated. The new site is built as an open source site, which makes it possible for anyone to fetch data and use the software.

openaid.se display of aid to Uganda 2013

openaid.se display of aid to Uganda 2013

The data is available through an API (Application Programming Interface) that enables anyone to construct a query. Sida chose to develop its system in a way that allows anyone to visualise chosen data in an own way.
But which data? A fancy visualisation is never better than the data it is based on. The data used in Open Aid comes from Sida’s systems, so however openly they are shown it still builds on that the agency has its statistics and financial systems in order.

All data is packed in the so called IATI standard, making it somewhat comparable in an international setting. The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), launched as a collaborative initiative at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra 2008 and has become an international standard in aid transparency.
The IATI standard as used on Open Aid has its problems though, for example are substantial sectors of aid not technically classified as such not yet possible to identify. For example research support or ICT.

Further reading:
About Open Aid www.openaid.se
About IATI www.aidtransparency.net

Oct 14

Real Virtualities

Abigail Leffler considers the use of open data in academia

Do you like cartoons? If you do, you may enjoy this eight and a half-minute long one by Piled higher and Deeper (PhD) advocating for the use of open data in academia.

The authors submit that ‘tax payers are already paying for knowledge to be distributed broadly’ (Shockey and Eisen: 2012). Research and peer-reviewed papers in the public domain benefit not only students and researchers in both developed and less developed countries (for the latter, open data is precious as it may be the only resource at hand), but authors as well, as it helps them gain more visibility in their field.

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Oct 14

Open Data: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Abigail Leffler defines and explores the significance of open data used in new and social media in the context of development and social change.

That Gutenberg moment

‘We live in a Gutenberg moment,’ announces Nadine Schuurman, ‘in which we are migrating from book reading to Internet browsing’ (Schuurman: 2013, p. 372). And ever since Johannes Gutenberg and his printing press idea, adds Michael Mandiberg, ‘technological innovations have enabled the dissemination of more and more media forms over broader and broader audiences’ (Mandiberg: 2012, p. 1). Indeed the implications of the Internet phenomenon are far-reaching.

With the advent of Web 2.0 (O’Reilly: 2004, in Mandiberg: 2012, p.2), new forms of communication have emerged. New media (of which social media is a subset) is non-linear, interactive, peer-to-peer in nature. This means that we no longer live in a model where a few dictate what the rest consume: we have become both producers and consumers of online information, and social media in particular provides the infrastructure that facilitates this information sharing. Mandiberg notes that ‘at the end of this first decade of the twenty-first century, the line between media producers and consumers has blurred, and the unidirectional broadcast has partially fragmented into many kinds of multidirectional conversations’ (Mandiberg: 2012, p. 1).

A cacophony of voices

Media participation has thus become part of media consumption. This interactivity is ‘a necessary condition for social, political and cultural participation’ (Lievrouw: 2011, p. 13), making new media an ideal catalyst for social change. The result from this variety of inputs is, as expected, a cacophony of voices singing to us through instruments as diverse as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, the mobile Internet (mobile phones) and YouTube, to name a few. Cacophony may be a disturbing sound but it definitely sets the tone for development and social change. Acknowledgement of dissenting voices leads to democracy at least, and to social change at most.

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Sep 14

Some Wednesday morning inspiration

Charlotta Duse introduces the topic of open data and related transparency and accountability issues.

Sanjay Pradhan is Vice President for Change, Knowledge and Learning at the World Bank and is known for his work on open development. In this TED talk he illustrates the possibilities with open data and transparency for accountability and inclusive development.


Sep 14

Hello world!

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