How Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism is changing the practice of journalism in Africa
The practice of journalism in Africa has recorded great successes through the years. But there have also been great challenges. One such challenge has been accessing data, especially technical data, and effectively conveying its key findings to the target audience.
It is this challenge that data journalism seeks to solve, and the Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism (RCDIJ) is at the forefront of this charge. RCDIJ believes data journalism is key to unearthing valuable information of great consequence for society, and has therefore been committed to mainstreaming data journalism practice in Africa.
It is to this end that RCDIJ created its Data Journalism Masterclass, an annual gathering of journalists from across the continent, where deep insights on data journalism and its application are shared for the empowerment of journalists to better practice data journalism.
For its 2020 version, one which occurred in a year that has sadly been defined by the horrors of a public health crisis, RCDIJ focused primarily on the application of data journalism to public sector procurement and project implementation, key areas of controversy in government’s response to COVID-19.
The masterclass which held in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Thursday, November 26, was in partnership with Open Contracting Partnership, Code for Africa, BudgIT (Tracka), Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), and JetSystems.
Application for this year’s training was well oversubscribed, attracting multiple entries from across Africa which surpassed available slots several times over. This has been the story of the application process. Following a rigorous selection process, the targeted fifty (50) journalists were selected.
The one-day training which drew a diverse mix of journalists from different media organisations, was really an eyeopener for many journalists as they were led into new insights on data journalism and its varied applications.
The speakers took the participants through an unforgettable journey into what is typically seen as the most technical and demanding aspect of the profession.
The first speaker at the impactful training was Mansur Mamman, Open Contracting Technical Lead at Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), who spoke extensively on the nature of the procurement process in Nigeria, as well as ongoing efforts towards ensuring a transparent and accountable procurement process in the country.
After Mamman came Andie Okon, Community and Capacity Building Manager for Open Contracting Partnership, who laid bare the concept of open contracting and the application of open contracting principles and techniques towards ensuring transparency and accountability in the public sector procurement process.
The next trainer was Uadamen Ilevbaoje, who heads the Tracka unit at BudgIT. His session shed light on the activities of Nigerian political office holders. Ilevboaje took the participants through various ways political leaders, especially lawmakers, compromise public sector project implementation, thereby shortchanging the people.
The last trainer, Dokhare Joseph, Data Analyst at Code for Africa, dealt extensively on Data Journalism principles and application techniques. Providing insights into key concepts like data storytelling and fact checking, Mr Dokhare successfully crystallised the value of data journalism, not only as a specialised endeavour, but also as a complementary force to general journalism practice.
Participants were full of praise for the organisers at the end of the hours-long masterclass, pledging to commit to deploying newly acquired insights and skills. It was clear at the end of the masterclass that the practice of data journalism on the continent received a major boost.