Oct 14

2014 and the Ministry of Truth | Newspeak: Minitrue

Abigail Leffler says Big Data Brother… one bit at a time

ICT (Internet communications technology) enables gathering of digital data derived from our online interactions and other iterations such as those that come from GPS (Global Positioning System)-equipped devices. This interactivity being ‘a necessary condition for social, cultural and political participation’ (Lievrouw: 2013, p. 15) functions as a catalyst for change, development and humanitarian relief.

Just consider that all the tweets, blogposts and Facebook entries generate big data and so do all the ‘likes’ and endorsements and any other information pointing to user connection networks and to activity levels of individuals on the Net.

To give you an idea of how large big data actually is, every minute of every day we create

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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

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

Sep 14

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