Reflecting on 1 year at Open Data Durban

May 2017 marks one year since I have officially joined the Open Data Durban team and what a journey it has been. As one of the founding team members, there has been a lot of experimenting in our first year in operation. What I appreciate most about Open Data Durban is it is an organisation trying to drive social change and make a positive impact in the city of Durban by using technology.

Both of my “bosses”, (Although they don’t like to be called bosses) Matthew and Richard have always been very supportive, an inspiration and role models to me. Matthew is ODD’s lead technologist and data scientist. He has been mentoring me in my interest in data science and encourages and supports my personal goals. Matt advises me on which online data science courses I should take and what tools and skills I should learn to be a data scientist. Thanks to Matt, I now know basic coding.

Richard has always helped me on a personal and professional level. With the help of Richard and School of Data courses, I have gained many data wrangling skills especially when it comes to working with large datasets and spreadsheets. He has also taught professional skills to engage with funders and project partners.

There is so much I have learnt in the past year that all cannot be mentioned. Literally, everyday I learn something new. We are always given room to explore and learn things on our own. One of Richard’s classic lines in “LMGTFY”- Let Me Google That For You. Whenever I ask a question, that is his response. He encourages me to first Google something if I don’t know what it means and if I can’t find what I’m looking at on Google, then only should I ask him.

At ODD, I have been given a lot of creative freedom and was always given the option to work on projects that interested me. In the past year, I have worked on loads of general data wrangling when needed on various projects. From uploading data to the ODD open data portal, to finding content for Durban Answers which is a platform to help citizens in Durban find information on services in the city.

I was project lead partnering with Oxpeckers on #GreenAlert which helps users to track developments requiring environmental authorisations. This project taught me a lot about how to engage with the government since government employees are always inundated with important work. Nevertheless, I persevered and learnt if you want government data to go directly to the source! Oxpeckers also me the opportunity to publish my first article titled “Appeal Against Expansion of Mine in Wildlife Corridor”.

I have also worked on the Open Knowledge International (OKI), Global Open Data Index (GODI) for 2016. Working on GODI required my assistance in measuring the openness of government data in 8 southern African countries. This required in-depth research to answer surveys on a range of categories from government spending to air quality data. My blog on my experiences as a GODI contributor was also published by the OKI which I am very proud of.

In the past six months, I have worked on The Mpumalanga Civic Media Initiative (MCMI) which focused on training grassroots newsrooms to use data tools to introduce them to data journalism and improve their reporting on issues such as service delivery and public accountability. MCMI by far has taught me the most. I have trained journalists who have very little or no journalistic qualifications which fulfilled my vocation for wanting to teach and share knowledge.

At Open Data Durban, we often blog about the projects we are working on and what is going on in the organisation so our community and funders are kept up to date with our progress. I must say, at first I loathed this since my writing skills were very bad. However, our chief publishing leader, Sophie helped me to develop my writing skills and now I enjoy blogging!

Over the past year, I have travelled both locally and internationally and always helped by the team to prepare my presentations. At ODD we work as a team and so I am always giving or receiving help from the team. Without my team, I would not have learnt new skills or develop personally and for that, I am very grateful.

I had a fantastic one year at ODD. Watching the team grow and the start up develop from strength to strength. Working with and being mentored by some of the greatest people in their fields has been a huge learning experience. I am definitely positive about the future of ODD and the impact the organisation will make in society. All the best Open Data Durban!

– Tricia

Tricia is an OpenGov Fellow with Open Data Durban and she loves to bake.


Originally published at Open Data Durban.