Open Knowledge Foundation organized a global City Spending Data Parties in many cities from Israel, Japan, Brazil, Kenya, Nigeria etc. where members of local Open Knowledge Community work with data wranglers, coders, journalists, students and others in July 19- 21 to open up budget and spending data from cities to help citizens get a sense of where the money is being spent.
Open Knowledge Foundation Nepal organized a similar episode in Smart Samaj, Kathmandu. I joined in as a data wrangler having done some work on data before during Open Nepal Hackathon. I thought I had done it before so it would be an easy thing for me. I was in for many surprises. Challenges were waiting!
A group about 20 enthusiasts (give or take) were participating. The party began after the group was divided into Wranglers, Coders and Designers.
We worked on data of budget of Kathmandu Metropolitan City available at their website. First surprise: The data was in pdf format in Nepali language. Second surprise: It was not unicode. Nepal Government has passed an act that all documents released publicly by any entity of Nepal Government should be released in Unicode. We were happy that at least some data were publicly available to work on!
Experience, at first, was not as sweet as anticipation. At first, it was only about staring at the data and trying to figure out what the technical financial terms in Nepali meant. We chose the headings and subheadings to work on and divided the work by indices of data (अनुसूची in Nepali).
During open Nepal Hackathon we had used Tabula (github) temporarily hosted on an Amazon server. We had to work without Tabula for the first day only to find the link where it was hosted at the end of the day. All of us data wranglers were too excited about the event and we didn’t mind doing a bit more hard work to extract data.
Come second day; we had Tabula, more ideas, a day-long experience with data, and a belief that we could actually do it together! And we did it!
We were on IRC at #OpenSpending. Conversing about the event, asking for and getting help from other fellow data enthusiasts, and the most interesting experience at IRC was talking to global data activists about Nepal. We loved that they loved Nepal too.
The data visualizations, links for complete data sets done over two days, and many more can be found at OKFN: Local Nepal blog. All the work is listed in this link and it’s highly recommended that you visit.
It was remarkable 3 days of learning, working and enjoying. We all left the last day on a note to get together for a similar event soon. Looking forward to it!
Finally, it was great news and encouragement getting featured in the OpenSpending blog.