Being relatively new to the School of Data, known to many as SCODA, I was really interested in finding out more about the School’s activities around the world. Our plan was to have a working SCODA retreat for the first three days at the rural lodge, Makao Changani Beach Resort, on the coast about an hour south of Dar es Salaam, then spend two days in Dar es Salaam in workshops with SCODA’s local partner Dlab. Participants started trickling in on Friday and activities began in earnest on Monday morning. By the time the final traveler had arrived, we were 30 participants from 20 countries, plus SCODA Director Katelyn Rogers, the Africa and Training Lead David Opoku, and Networker and Programmes Manager Cedric Lombion.
The morning session on Monday revealed a lot about SCODA’s central mission and the diversity of ways that participant organisations are approaching that mission. To start off the day, we conducted a meet-and-greet in which we interviewed a fellow participant and then introduced this person to the group, while everyone listened raptly of course.
It is important to know that SCODA’s central mission is not just to promote data literacy, but to do this with an eye towards furthering the goals of civil society, such as government accountability and community empowerment.
Data as a commons for furthering Civil Society
In the Monday afternoon session, participants split into two tracks that persisted throughout the following days. The ‘Expert and Fellows’ track focused on projects in the Fellows Program and the Experts Program that develop and implement capacity-building activities for civil society organisations and newsrooms. The second track, the Network Track, focused on creating mutual understanding of the activities of the coordinating team of SCODA and the network of associated organisations and individuals.
Seeking to understand the SCODA network.
Each participant described (briefly) something about his or her organisation’s activities, and with Katelyn we developed an idea of how the network members support each other.
The SCODA network activities and benefits
The diversity of activities of the representatives and associates of network member groups was impressive. Member groups have a clear emphasis on the issues of empowering underserved communities and segments of society, furthering investigative data journalism, and addressing government accountability. SCODA network organizations work with diverse sectors in society, including activist organisations (NGOs), governments (especially local and regional ones) and journalists/newsrooms.
For example, Angelica Dacanay works with the Philippine NGO Bantay Kita on transparency issues and community empowerment in the context of natural resource extraction. The group works for data transparency, and local communities get help in using data to identify and confirm the contractual obligations that mining companies have to support community projects and mitigate the effects of extraction activities.
Celestina Obiekea works with the Follow the Money in Nigeria, which focuses on tracking project finances as a means to improving government accountability and reducing losses to corruption.
During the afternoons, we heard from participants who were affiliated with additional groups, including:
and participated in skills workshops and discussions on diverse topics.
On days 3-5, we moved our activities to the University of Dar es Salaam, where we were hosted at dLab, which promotes data literacy and data journalism, with trainings and engagement to support the Open Data movement throughout Tanzania.
On the bus to Dar es Salaam
SCODA camp participants interacted with representatives of organisations and other stakeholders that represented diverse interests in data in Tanzania.
Initially, there were multiple activities to get people interacting. Participants in the Network Track shared information on activities of their organisation. I sat with a group of people and we diagrammed how our the shared interests and activities of our organisations were related. Each group then shared what their interactions had revealed about each other’s groups.
Sharing common interests and activities…
On days 4 and 5 participants in the Expert Track worked with Tanzanians in a practice data dive, using data from the natural resource extraction industry and on healthcare. Fellows paired with groups of participating nationals and worked with them through the SCODA data pipeline. During this time, we in the Network Track participated in a two-day Training-the-Trainers workshop, in which we covered many points and tips on organising and running data literacy trainings.
Joint workshop participants at the University of Dar es Salaam, What data means to me..
• Peter Pearman