Visiting the Open Data Lab, Jakarta

On Thursday we visited the World Wide Web Foundation’s Open Data Lab in Menteng, Jakarta. I learned about them through Miko Cañares, who I met at The Impact of Civic Tech conference earlier this year.

Miko was travelling this week, so we met Antya and Arthur. We sat on the beanbags in their workshop area and they kindly talked us through what their organisation does and how they operate.

I think what struck me most about their story was how central collaboration is to the Open Data Lab’s methodology. It seemed like the networks of civil society organisations (CSOs), government bodies, and individuals that they are part of, is a crucial part of how they understand their place and mission.

They work on both the production and use sides of ‘open data’:

  • On the production side they train, do analysis for, and develop standards and strategies for government agencies and CSOs who can publish open data, and help them improve the quality of their production and practice.
  • On the use side, they train CSOs staff and individuals in collecting and scraping data, analysing it, presenting their analysis, and generally making use of the data.

Organisations that they’ve trained have created and derived their own training programs to pass on the knowledge to their networks. This becomes a revenue source for those groups.

They emphasised the importance of people directly interacting and learning together over the arcane technical aspects of working with data—’this work is 90% social and 10% technical’.

They see their role unlocking some of the potential of data for transparency, decentralisation, learning, and participation, but that it is the CSOs and individuals with their own causes, expertise, local knowledge that are the actual actors creating change. Most of the Lab’s work is communicating with these partner organisations, many of which are local groups around Indonesia.

Their team is also distributed, as is the overarching WWW Foundation.
Some of the Lab’s team is based in Jakarta; some are working remotely. There’s someone in Oman, and Miko is mostly based in the Philippines.

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