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The vision of a new world from an Open Data advocate in Madagascar

Data is Power ! In today’s digital transformation where « data » is the new oil, the urge to tacke the « ignorance » issue is too evident my country. If not knowing what « Informatic » is was considered as  synonym of « illiteracy » by 2000’s in Madagascar ; today in 2018, not understanding what is data or how important it’s for development is a tragedy for any Nation. When we see more and more data driven business models around the world and the increasing trend of Big Data concept, I totally agree with Benjamin Franklin when he said « An investment in knowledge pays the best ».

My first steps into it was the turning point of my life …. It all started from my selection for the Open Data Media project fellowship in November 2016 with CFI Medias. Being now the Open Data Lead for Madagascar within the CAFDO network, I’ve realized the change it has brought to my life and my profesionnal priorities ; my passion and my creativity being unexpectedly sharpened  opened my eyes of my assignment. This article is written by a mission – driven woman as part of her 2018 Toptal Scholarship application.

With the launch of our Open Data Platform in June 2018, it’s essential that I promote in parallel the demand  and understanding side of the equation.  Since then, my vision is to see « Open Data and Data Literacy » part of Malagasy people’s life and Madagascar Governance for I could see it’s not only intended for those with scientific background.  Regarding what I’ve been through and where I am today, from a total ignorance to a great passion, I strongly believe I can make a difference in this world by defending this cause, it’s the reason where I will pour all my energy into.

 

Data Science for youth in High School

The success of the three previous training session for people above 18 gave me the was idea of the why not for the younger ones. Also, if it was a success with my 11 years old nephew at home, it can be the same for others ! It’s now time to go to the next level !

My strategy for a future digital generation is to set up data science curriculums for young training sessions, precisely for young at their last year at High School with the aim to target first those from vulnerable groups throughout the country.  Initiated through the non-profit association I founded two years ago, Madagascar Initiatives for Digital Innovation, a partneship with education-focused national organizations can side by side achieve great things. As Data Science is a new concept in official Madagascar education in general, it will happen each Wednesday afternoon and Saturday on a full time basis like it would be the case for most of  extracurricular activities.  During these two weekly sessions, approximately 100 to 125 students could be trained per week.   If some schools have free time for the other  days of the week, this will increase the number of free training sessions and therefore the number of trained students.

The curriculum content being adapted to their age and using everyday object they use, the 2 hours session will also include short video animation projection to make it funny and not boring. At the end, this will serve as an introduction for participants to prepare them for higher level on data analysis and data mining once they grow up and study at the university doing their researches. They will know precisely what data they need and what data to ask for … we will not only have young data science beginners but the next generation of data entrepreneurs and statisticians for future policy making.

 

Toward the insertion of Data Science within the National Curriculum Education

It’s always said that when you do something new, it’s always rejected at first so trying to  change a national policy takes years. For Data Science be considered as a needed subject at schools,  the long term objective is to bring a change within the current National Curriculum Education. The process will include first the establishment of a National Open Data Charter which allow in a massive way data reuse so recognizing the importance of Data Literacy. The hardest part of the it will be to find qualified teachers to provide the course at the national level which might require intensive training and it will soon or later should be part of Government program. Myself being already in contact with people in charge of establishing the National Open Data Charter, I will stand for a higher quality education for the current and next generation.

 

Support to develop Datajournalism

 

Not belonging to any Government entity, the secret to success here is to inspire and be the change we want to see. While waiting for this to happen in a country with political instability and corruption,  the extracurricular activity option is the best alternative in terms of promoting digital literacy. Beside, one of the mandatory steps to follow is to show in a creative way data analysis of data we publish ourself. To do so, I hope to make one video per two months and continue publishing new dataset per month. Altogether, these actitivies and its results can be used as an advocacy to stand for what is achievable and required in Madagascar.  Regarding these miles to go, mentorship from experienced motion design and data scientist will be very appreciated.

Partnership with Civil Societies and Ministries

This is the core part of the expected success but again, the process is long. Only the national ministry of Youth and Sport has accepted ( from now) to partner with my organization in publishing data in an open format and the others entities which should be involved in publishing data are using the absence of National Open Data Charter as an excuse to wait so even basic country data such as population, land or administrative boundaries are not available online.

We don’t know exactly when all of this will be achieved but it is important that we do something every day to achieve it. 

 

Published on Wednesday, 19 September 2018 07:51
Written by F. RAFIDIHARINIRINA
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