Certified Open Data Trainer: Thanks, ODI London!

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Delighted to break the news: I am amongst the happy few to become a Certified Open Data trainer! Operated by the London-based prominent actor in the field of open technologies, Open Data Institute (ODI), the certification is a rewarding result of a five-day-long intense course that our class inaugurated.

Founded by Sir Time Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt, the ODI is an innovative consultancy that puts forward open data and all of its potentials. Training is one of their core activities, and the team considers it a priority to ensure that skilful and experimented open data enthusiasts will also be able to coherently transmit their knowledge to others.

The train-the-trainers session I (as RS Strategy’s CEO) was invited to participate, is the first of its kind for the ODI. We thus pride ourselves not only for being amongst the inaugural fellows, but also to have provided feedback and insights on how to improve the training in the future.

Our inaugural class (see the image above) is composed by:

The picture above is with Gavin Starks, ODI’s CEO, and was snapped by one of our outstanding trainers, David Tarrant. A big ‘thanks’ is in order here, to our trainers: David, Melissa and Kathryn, as well as to the ODI team for the welcome and the healthy lunch breaks.

So, what did we learn? Plenty of things in fact! The training is not geared towards providing open data-related expertise, but towards helping such experts with crafting courses. The content of the training thus considers your open data expertise as a pre-requisite and is entirely focused on providing educational engineering capabilities to the experts.

Amongst the most valuable things, we learnt and directly applied techniques about creating interactive training, tricks about the ways we can build open data knowledge into your core specialist area (e.g., statistics and data visualisation, development for RS Strategy’s case), and of course, efficient ways to design an open data training course. Those competencies take us from being good trainers to great trainers, an upgrade also supported by the strategy we crafted for our individual long-term development as knowledge transmitters.

The five-day course was intense and fun. It involved a great amount of peer-to-peer learning and assessment, which is always a humbling and insightful experience. We felt a bit like students, too, crafting our presentations for the final exam while eating pizza and laughing at anecdotes we would not quite dare include. Great people, great activities — what else?

All throughout the five-day long course and the final exam, we were assessed for the following skills (check the full list here):

  • An understanding and implementation of education theory;
  • An ability to create interactive training with good learning outcomes;
  • Knowledge of open data as applied to their specialist area (e.g., policy, law, data science);
  • A plan for their long-term personal development as a trainer

Youth, “the Internet” and speech

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Last week, just a few days after my return from Cairo, I stumbled upon an event organised by UNESCO and whose combination of supporting countries amused me. The two-day conference, “Youth and the internet: Fighting radicalisation and extremism”, was supported by Bulgaria and Egypt. Everyone who knows me, understands the amusement. But beyond this fun fact of limited importance, the topic and its relationship to my own work and interests were intriguing enough to dedicate the event a day. I know quite a few people around me are interested in this write-up, I decided to take the time and actually expand it, in a way that it can relate to a broader work I am into: exploring excitable speech through post-colonial lenses in the Balkans and MENA as well as contributing to a project that aims to train citizens to mitigate hate speech online in South Sudan. More on the distinction between ‘hate speech’ and ‘excitable speech’ later (a research paper coming up on that).

I was having my own expectations about the line-up of speakers and the probable directions the discussions would head to. And I was quite correct.

Diversity (or lack thereof)

To start with, female participation was pretty limited. This is not a new fad, we know that female experts and researchers are less represented in general as well as in fora, conferences and the likes. But the female underrepresentation also provoked this sort of nonsense:

How can anyone, in 2015, come up with this bullshit? Which is — even more striking — in a context of work and exchange that favours, highlights, emphasises and calls for inclusion, understanding, nuanced approach and sensibility.(And I will spare you the bewilderment some male researchers and journos I talked to, expressed at Women Without Borders being represented by an elderly male.)

Anyhow, let’s skip the gender bit, for now. There was something else that bugged me: the number of non-youth speaking on behalf of youth. Why not inviting young people? I don’t mean to say that only youth can speak about youth, others have experience, empathy and knowledge to do so. But this doesn’t mean non-youth are the sole entitled to speak about challenges youth (however loosely defined this group is) faces. Inclusion and diversity also means this. I am disappointed as it is very rare to observe target groups being actually actors of happenings and discussions that concern them: if it is about education, we’ll call policy-makers, stars, journalists and perhaps teachers but we’ll rarely if ever will invite learners (pupils, students, kids) to participate and chim in.

Causes of radicalisation

The talks moved to presenting different visions and understandings of why and how radicalisation and extremism spreads online. I was wary of hearing yet again different flavours of the widespread, reductive and short-sighted vision social-networks-and-the-internet-is-guilty-of-terrorism. This happened but — thankfully — was also diversified with more in-depth and nuanced perspectives. One of the participants even mentioned that we can use the online space as a tool to combat extreme speech. Which, against a backdrop of heated debate in France around then-Intelligence Bill and the mass surveillance it enables if promulgated, was a welcome relief.

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Plug & Play News: Sourcing, Verifying and Publishing Info in Real-Time Crisis

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Earlier in May, I attended re:publia, aka Berlin’s annual gathering of innovators from the worldover. This year’s topic was “Finding Europe” [I will post a quick write-up of the #MustSee talks and the #MustFollow people from #rp15].

One of the two talks I gave focused on sourcing, verifying and disseminating information in a rapidly evolving situation, e.g. a real-time crisis. As our team of three kickass ladies was from Eastern Europe, we decided to highlight examples from this region all by re-inscribing this region in Europe. Ironically, while Tetyana Bohdanova and yours truly were providing insights about the ever-complexe-and-tough task of disseminating verified content at the right time and through the right channels, our third ‘partner in crime’, Danica Radisic, was applying these approaches while covering the unfolding turmoil in Macedonia.

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The Startup Revolution in the Arab World

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It’s a fact, the startup ecosystem is blossoming in the Arab world. How did it happen? Who are the main players? How can the Arab diaspora help?

In partnership with WamdaSimplon.co, a French diversity-aiming digital co-working space, and StartupBRICS, a French-written blog on startups in the BRICS countries, are inviting French entrepreneurs and members of the Arab diaspora to discuss this startup revolution.

Several key players will lead the debate:

  • Julien Le Bot, co-founder at Yakwala, a French media focusing on hyperlocal news and data;
  • Rayna Stamboliyska, expert on open data and technology in the Middle East, founder at RS Strategy;
  • Ahmed Chebil, Tunisian entrepreneur (hosting, cloud and data security), via Skype;
  • Aline MayardWamda‘s French Editor;
  • Akram Belkaïd, author of “Être Arabe aujourd’hui”.

The debate will be curated by Hugo Sedouramane, a journalist at l’Opinion and project manager at Club 21ème Siècle. The event is #Simploff 3, and will take place on 2 December 2013, at Simplon.co’s premises in Montreuil.

Big Data, Bad Data: my keynote at the Open World Forum 2013

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I was honored to be giving the closing keynote at the Open World Forum 2013 in Paris on 4 October 2013, where I shared the stage with Rand Hindi of :SNIPS and Romain Lacombe of French Prime Minister’s Commission Etalab. We spoke about what big data can bring to the society, and I focused on critically discussing common misconceptions in both Big Data meaning and analysis.

[Announcement] OKCon Open & Citizen Science hackday: submissions

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I’ve already announced the OKCon ‘Open & Citizen Science satellite event’. As you may remember, we launched idea submissions several days ago. The detailed descriptions are below. You can vote for your favourite one and join us geeking out next Thursday, Sept 19. Don’t hesitate to get back to us either via Twitter (@MaliciaRogue, @stefankasberger) or via mail.

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