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diGJamaica.com stands out at data conference

Published:Wednesday | April 24, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Teams hard at work during the Caribbean Open Data Conference and Code Sprint, held recently. - CONTRIBUTED

THE JAMAICAN leg of the third Caribbean Open Data Conference and Code Sprint concluded recently with the results of the code sprint, a 24-hour competition that saw teams of developers using open data from government agencies to create apps.

The team sponsored by diGJamaica.com, FarmScore, placed second with their app of the same name, a credit-scoring system for farmers to be used by financial institutions. The competition was won by K2MJB, which created a farm-management app called Farma Bredrin, designed to tackle the problem of praedial larceny.

Day one of the event, themed 'Developing the Caribbean,' featured presentations from key players in the data and ICT industry worldwide, including director of Gleaner Online, Deika Morrison, who was instrumental in developing The Gleaner's latest initiative, diGJamaica.com.

Morrison's presentation, 'diGJamaica.com: The Gleaner Makes Information Accessible,' demonstrated how the website not only makes data from various government agencies available in the form of graphs and charts, but makes them truly accessible -obtainable, easy-to-use and readily understandable.

"We believe that if information is easy to use, then people will use it. That drove decisions about how to convey content using different formats and technology," Morrison said. "Instead of just putting up the data, we started to 'diG' deeper."

Using a yardstick, Morrison highlighted this with a chart created using data from the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme reports on costs and length of roads, which showed two dramatically divergent costs per yard of refurbished road surface - less than $25,000 for the Upper Waterloo Road area and close to $325,000 for the North Parade stretch. This chart, created using data, elicited a collective gasp of shock from the audience.

SHARE DATA, MAINTAIN CREDIBILITY

The website features a comprehensive data section that also includes the latest Estimates of Expenditure and other government documents.

Other key speakers were Paul Kukubo, CEO of the Kenyan ICT Board and Alex Howard, Washington correspondent for O'Reilly Media. Kukubo highlighted the fact that Kenya is one of the world leaders in open data usage.

In contrast, Dr Maurice McNaughton, director of the Centre of Excellence, Mona School of Business and Management, noted that the regional open data initiative is in the early exploratory stage. Interestingly, the World Bank estimates that a robust open data initiative could add some US$35 million to the economy.

Howard highlighted several international publications with substantive open data platforms and advised data journalists to: make their work "citizen-centric"; protect sensitive data; beware of data from government sources that "feed you what they want you to know" and share data and code where applicable to enable replication and maintain credibility.