DBM Master Class and Boot Camp

Date Originally Published: December 04, 2014
Date Republished: October 13, 2017

In line with our goal of increasing government capacity for effective data management, the Open Data Task Force recently held an Open Data Master Class and accompanying two-day Boot Camp for senior officials and technical staff of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). Held last November 10, 2014, the Master Class introduced DBM senior officials to Open Data both as a concept and as a practical tool for transparency. This was followed by a more hands-on workshop, the Boot Camp, which was held from November 27-28, and was attended by budget analysts and specialists those who handle DBM data on a regular basis.

The DBM Master Class began with two presentations: Open Data 101 and the Journey of Open Data Philippines. In presenting Open Data as a concept, Gabe Baleos, the Task Force Policy Lead, enumerated examples of how big data is currently shaping citizens everyday choices through apps, for example, that mine government data to list the cleanest restaurants or best commute routes in an area. He also talked about lessening barriers to the reuse of data through open formats (.csv, .txt), as opposed to closed formats like .pdf. Usec. Bon Moya in turn related the journey of Open Data in the country, giving particular emphasis on the crucial role agencies play as the main suppliers of government data.

This served as an appropriate transition to the next two presentations. Ulysses dela Cruz from the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) discussed the various reforms PhilGEPS has been undertaking to promote bidding transparency, while Charo Logarta-Logamon talked about similar reforms within the Bureau of Customs. Both speakers also referred to their respective dashboards on the Open Data website which allow users to sort through and view bidding and customs data.

The senior officials in attendance were then given a chance to voice their opinions on information-related processes within DBM. Specifically, they discussed proposals on how to adjust DBM information management protocols to meet the requirements outlined in the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill upon enactment. The participants spent the rest of the afternoon at a World Café or knowledge-sharing session, where they reacted to earlier presentations and provided input on how their respective offices could work with Open Data.

In order to transform these conversations into action, the Task Force invited DBM technical staff to a two-day Boot Camp. Outreach Lead Ivygail Ong began by conducting a Jargon-busting Workshop, facilitating a discussion on terms like open government and citizen engagement. As in the Master Class, there were also presentations on Open Data, PhilGEPS, and DBM information management protocols. The Grand Prize winners of the recently concluded #KabantayNgBayan: Procurement Hack the members of Team PewPew were also present to give a demonstration of their mobile app MetroLitrato, which helps users track the progress of government infrastructure projects by collecting photos from citizens and displaying them in a timeline.

After these introductory sessions, Data Lead Gianne Gaoiran taught the attendees how to scrape and clean data using free online tools such as Table Capture and Tabula. She also introduced them to metadata and the difference between machine-readable and human-readable data distinction which spells the difference between reusable and non-reusable data.The next day, Creatives Lead Smile Indias conducted a data visualization workshop wherein she talked about basic design principles. She emphasized the importance of good design in capturing people attention, and how this can be achieved through the effective manipulation of qualities such as font and color.

Finally, the participants newly-learned skills were put to the test through a data visualization workshop, during which they were given a single dataset (Statement of Allotment, Obligation, and Balances or SAOB) and were asked to find stories within the data and relate them through visualizations.The challenge was to come up with an effective data story for an imaginary, randomly assigned audience (student, foreigner, officemate, or senior official).

Presentations followed in the afternoon. Different groups focused on different narrative threads. Some focused on data from a specific agency, such as the Department of Tourism, while others likened the national budget to the concept of baon (allowance) for Grade 1 students.Apart from Indias, also present to give their insights and reactions to the group presentations were Charie Villa of ABS-CBN and Joanna Malinis and Raxenne Maniquiz of Plus63 Design Co. Overall, more than just translating data into charts and graphs, the participants learned how to craft messages out of pools of information an invaluable skill for creating easy-to-understand data.

The Boot Camp ended on a high note, with participants exclaiming "Madali lang pala!" (It's easy after all!) during the workshops and even requesting for more training sessions in the future. This bodes well for the development of a strong partnership between DBM and Open Data, which will hopefully lead to an increase in the quantity and quality of datasets released by the agency.In the near future, the Task Force plans to roll out similar training sessions for other government agencies to bolster the spread of Open Data in the Philippines and build the necessary technical capacity for its wider implementation.

We, in the Task Force continue to implement these training sessions in order to foster a culture of openness in government. Apart from imparting practical data skills, these workshops also empower the participants to view themselves not merely as employees of the bureaucracy, but as potential agents for change and transparency. By sharing with them the Open Data gospel, the Task Force contributes to the larger effort toward good governance, helping usher in a future marked by increased citizen engagement and openness in government."