Open Data PH at the ADB RETA 6445 Launch Workshop

As part of our outreach program, two members of the Open Data Task Force recently participated in a workshop held from June 12-13, 2014, in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. The Launch Workshop, the second in a series of four, was organized by the Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF) with funding support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).The previous workshop, held last Dec. 2013, introduced grant opportunities to civil society organizations (CSOs) and local government units (LGUs) interested in working together to set up sub-projects geared toward constructive engagement and social accountability. Intended to boost the participants project implementation capacities, the Launch Workshop focused on three key topics: Transparency and Citizen Engagement, Social Accountability, and Monitoring and Reporting (within the ADB and PTF framework).

The workshop started in the afternoon of June 12. The first part, called Open Data Philippines: Enhancing Transparency and Citizen Engagement for Better Results, was facilitated by Ivygail Ong and Gianne Gaoiran, the respective Task Force Outreach and Data Leads.Ong led the first session by introducing the participants to Open Data. She conducted a jargon-busting workshop, which acquainted the participants with five keywords: Open Data, Open Government, Transparency, Accountability, and Citizen Engagement. She then gave an overview of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and expounded on the possible uses of Open Data. She also discussed various high-tech and low-tech initiatives currently being spearheaded in the international Open Data community, such as Indonesia's Solo Kota Kita, a community mapping initiative in the city of Surakarta which has both an online and offline platform.  

Session 2 focused on skills training for Open Data. Gaoiran introduced the attendees to essential data skills such as scraping, cleaning, and visualizing. She demonstrated how to scrape tables from online sources, extract data from PDF files, structure data effectively, and create visualizations using online tools the same skills taught during the weeklong Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) training held last May. She then facilitated an offline visualizations workshop. Teams of participants analyzed datasets from the Full Disclosure Policy (FDP) portal , using them to answer their own questions regarding the budgets for their respective hometowns.Afterwards, they communicated their findings to the group through low-tech visualizations made using markers and colored paper. 

The insights they shared revealed their excitement about Open Data as well as their concerns regarding the implementation of their sub-projects. One team reflected that Open Data forms the basis for public discussion, an enabler for citizens to exact accountability. Another commented that the types of data available are crucial as they determine what can be usable to CSOs and citizens, and thus the kinds of programs they can establish. Still another group said that CSOs must make it a habit to become aware of data gaps they encounter during program implementation, in order to serve as guidelines for future advocacies.

The next morning, Ong and Gaoiran gave a presentation on the journey of Open Data Philippines, elaborating on past, present, and future challenges. For this third session, they talked about how the initiative started, the partners involved, as well as recent events and future plans.The fourth and final session aimed to bridge the supply and demand sides of information. During this workshop, CSO representatives enumerated the datasets they need for their programs, while those from LGUs listed down the datasets they can publish or provide to the public. The two lists were then compared and discussed. In this way, the session established a starting point for further collaboration. 

The Launch Workshop provided an avenue for the sharing of ideas and the cultivation of new skills.Through engagements like this, we from the Task Force continue to spread awareness of Open Data and its positive consequences for governance. By sharing new technologies and fostering greater engagement between CSOs and LGUs, we hope to help usher in a world where transparency and accountability will no longer be considered jargon, but the foundations of a new norm.