Teaching data journalism in developing countries: lessons from ODECA

Eva Constantaras

Eva Constantaras is a data journalist and trainer who recently wrote the Data Journalism Manual for the UN Development Program. In a special guest post she talks about the background to the manual, her experiences in working with journalists and professors who want to introduce data journalism techniques in developing nations, and why the biggest challenges not technological, but cultural.

Over the last few years, there has been a significant shift in global experiments in data journalism education away from short term activities like boot camps and hackathons to more sustained and sustainable interventions including fellowships and institutes.

There is a growing awareness that the challenge of teaching data journalism in many countries is split straight down the middle between teaching data and teaching journalism — where neither data science nor public interest journalism are particularly common. Open data can be a boon to democracy — but only if there are professionals capable and motivated to transform that data into information for the public.

As Abhi Nemani, a veteran of government open data projects put it succinctly:

“The streets of Heroku are paved with the code of unused dashboards.”

Many attempts to bring data dashboards and citizens together have underestimated the gap between the two.

Bringing data journalism into the classroom

One of the most promising areas of growth has been bringing data journalism into the classroom, to redefine journalism for a new generation.

If data journalism is mainstreamed into journalism programs, that accelerates the process of “data journalism” just becoming “journalism” as championed by Simon Rogers.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Istanbul Regional Hub has published a Data Journalism Manual on its Open Data in Europe and Central Asia (ODECA) platform in English and Russian to accelerate the adoption of data journalism.

The ODECA initiative supports government…

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