Open Data Development in an age of social fissures, insecurity and COVID19 in rural Zimbabwe - Event Report

Saturday 6 March 2021
15:00 (CAT)
Online, Zimbabwe (Europe, Middle East & Africa)
Chiedza Kambasha, Rausing (Zimbabwe)

On Saturday 6th March 2021, the eleventh Open Data Day took place with people around the world organising hundreds of events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. Thanks to generous support from key funders, the Open Knowledge Foundation was able to support the running of more than 60 of these events via our mini-grants scheme.

This event received an Open Knowledge Foundation mini-grant thanks to support from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

How did your event celebrate open data?

The Open Data Day 2021 was successfully hosted and celebrated in Mungofa Village by the netsquared Musana community. The theme of the day was ‘Open Data Development in an age of social fissures, insecurity and COVID19 in rural Zimbabwe’, bringing together 50 participants from Chegumo, Musana, Bindura and Matepatepa.

The event was hosted in both virtual and physical formats with support of The Pelican Trust in Bindura, which brought together multiple stakeholders, locals and students, to empower them in advancing open data in this part of the world in a rural dynamic setting. The event started at 3pm with a theoretical session and ended with a practical workshop at 7pm. The theoretical high impact session was hosted to be shared with participants on the basic concept of open data, its importance, and how it could be accelerated across rural settings. This was demonstrated through a presentation from organisers, panel members and community stakeholders who shared examples of the impact of open data on government intermediaries, education and healthcare in strengthening citizen engagement and access to life saving techniques in the community. And the importance of the release of data sets.

Our event helped to encourage local participants to use open data for local content development in Zimbabwe, showing how data could be made available for everyone to use, especially government data.

The driving concept was resourcing technologies that could be used for smart visualisation of data and how data could be made available on a database for everyone to use to encourage development, social cohesion and innovative collaboration. We also discovered that most data has not been made accessible across rural Zimbabwe . In order to encourage innovation, transparency, and collaboration we need to advance the open data movement in Zimbabwe,The workshop empowered locals to use social media platforms to talk about their experiences, expand knowledge and broaden their networks about data and to share it for reuse. We also made them understand that research data must be made available for people to reuse and distributed for everyone to visualise it. We also empowered the participants on how they can make their data available socially, teaching participants that they can share data from social media to other communication platforms or social media platforms like WhatsApp as most participants and community citizens in the rural setting appeared to have access to WhatsApp groups and platforms.

The event was fun, informative and appreciated by every participant even with the technological glitches that we experienced throughout the day. The central takeaway from participants was their interest and engagement on issues relating to transparency and methods in supporting public oversight of government and helping to reduce corruption by enabling greater transparency at local levels.

Lessons learned from your event

This year, our theme centred on 'Open Data Development in an age of social fissures, insecurity and COVID-19 in rural Zimbabwe' and we learnt that data and information are still political tools that are used based on the benefits to stakeholders that use it as a pawn as and when they see fit, while also realising that the girl child is still marginalised when it comes to access to information that would benefit the development of communities and reduce the gender gap in regard to post-educational opportunities and training.

While we had interlooping hiccups for transmission of links we used to educate girls in other remote villages that had looked foward to a physical event and were sidelined due to travel restrictions, we found that YouTube remains an important window to the world when used correctly to educate communities as we did using:

We also learnt that as most rural communities are still moving away from cultural barriers that hinder acceptance, translation and understanding of the world events around them using videos and training tools that gave examples of other African countries appeared to give comfort in accepting the messages and training via video. In light of the lessons we have learnt that as civil society we still have a lot of work to be done in order to work with stakeholders locally to make access to data for all a basic human right for the greater good.

Why do you love Open Data Day?

At Rausing (Zimbabwe), we love Open Data Day as we feel it is an important event and occasion to mark the importance of access to information and community-driven solutions globally in an age where data is often used as a represive tool that hinders development of marginalised communities across the world and especially rural communities where we work and see the effects of lack of access to data. We have also realised that this is an opportunity at grassroots level to showcase to community leaders and other relevant stakeholders the benefits of open data, while encouraging the adoption of open data policies in rural and local government, rural business spaces and rural community organisations.

COVID-19 has had a significant social and economic impact across vulnerable communities with misinformation, false news, lack of access to life saving news and procedures and protocols for enhancing health awareness techniques through global campaigns and we have managed to be a bridge to provide high impact applied learning, increase local skills and provision of capacity building tooling during this amazing day. We joined the 2021 annual event to promote awareness and use of open data in Mungofa Village using multiple activities that were conducted according to COVID-19 (WHO) guidelines that included a talk/seminar and digital demonstrations and data training. We also managed to meet the local chief whom we had extensive discussion and talks on data and information being important for all and the need for it to always available, free and accessible all the time.

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