At OpenUp, our philosophy is that the only way to create a sustainable open data and citizen engagement movement within South Africa is to create a paradigm shift within thought-leader organisations. Through these organisations we believe that society can be sensitised to the importance of transparency in government and other organisations.
We are proud to be included as one of the winners of the 2012 African News Innovation Challange to support a pilot project that will attempt to contribute to the development of a South Africa data-driven ecosystem of information producers and consumers.
Our initial experiment is to try to evangelise the use of data within influential media organisations. Following the Code4Kenya model, data analysts / fellows are being embedded into host organisations for a period a six months.
During that period, Fellows are considered to be part of the news team, sitting side-by-side with journalists and attending daily news briefs. They are responsible for identifying opportunities to improve the way news stories are found and disseminated. Typically, they work on a data story with a journalist, produce visualisations, build apis or develop interesting ways of consuming news.
Fellows are supported by a CitizenLab manned by techies and a graphic designer. This lab provides the heavy-lifting to implement some of the projects identified by the fellows.
What we changed
The objective of this project is to allow news organisations to experiment with data-driven journalism without a big initial investment. After this 6 month period, we hope to have created institutional change within host organisations.
In addition to developing tools, a core function of the embedded fellows will be to promote the creation of teams inside media houses. We believe that long-term sustainability cannot be achieved unless behaviour change takes place. Team relationships will reinforce this change and serve to create internal champions.
Moreover, we believe that careful selection of organisations can create a “me too” ripple in the industry that will lead to a greater appreciation for how data can be used by journalists to reach their audiences.