ICFJ’s Ben Colmery participates in panel on data journalism for the developing world

Oct 282014

Data journalism is having a powerful impact on the lives of citizens, especially in the developing world, according to a panel of media-development experts brought together on October 15 by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA).

The discussion titled “How Data Journalism Drives Results in Developing Countries” touched on data initiatives around the world, with a focus on projects in Africa and Latin America. The panelists included Ben Colmery, deputy director of ICFJ’s Knight International Journalism Fellowships; Craig Hammer, program leader of The World Bank Institute’s Global Media Development program; Ida Jooste, country director in Kenya for Internews; and Tara Susman-Peña, senior research officer for the Internews Center for Innovation and Learning.

“Data journalism offers opportunities for solving social, political and economic problems,” said Colmery, who has worked with ICFJ Knight Fellows to develop data-driven media projects around the world. The fellowship program is designed to create a global culture of news innovation.

Citing ICFJ’s GotToVote projects in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, Colmery explained how data journalism engages civil society and solves government and community bottlenecks. The GotToVote projects created easy-to-use websites that allow citizens to find out where their nearest voting center is located and how to register to vote. This vital information previously had not been readily accessible.

He gave another example of the power of data: ICFJ Knight Fellow Justin Arenstein’s data-driven Dodgy Doctors tool for The Star newspaper in Kenya. By typing in simple search criteria, citizens can verify that their doctor is properly licensed before setting foot in the clinic.

“ICFJ’s impactful data journalism initiatives are mobilizing people and improving lives,” Colmery said. “We emphasize creating data journalism that empowers citizens.”

“Media is a catalyst for meaningful public participation in government decision-making,” said The World Bank Institute’s Hammer. “Data and open data can be a driver of development. This information can really inform decision-making at multiple levels.”

Internews’ Susman-Peña agreed, saying, “Data journalism could be a game changer in many ways for how journalism can integrate and promote development.”

Video of panel discussion courtesy of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)

Related content: Planning a data journalism story from start to finish Learn how via, IJNet.org