A first for Open Data in Trinidad & Tobago

I’ve come to realize I’m an Open Data enthusiast. Like most people, I tend to have questions about how things run, where resources are located and how they get distributed.

This year, that curiosity led me to seek out information about some government agencies in Trinidad & Tobago.
The Water and Sewerage Authority, the Public Transport Service Corporation, the Ministry of Health and the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service were institutions I had targeted. They all provide data in one form or another about things I was interested in.
However, that data came in the form of PDFs, Word documents, embedded in Google maps or even one-by-one on wen pages. Decidedly not open.
For all those sources, a lot of massage therapy was required. My fingers included.
And then, last week, The Trinidad & Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency Institute released their first report about Trinidad and Tobago’s Energy Industry. It was chock full of information on the players in this space, the revenues gained and production stats. It was also a PDF.
They took the next step though and through the efforts of the bright path foundation actually created Open Data sources of key information within the report. But they didn’t stop there, the TTEITI went ahead and just one week after releasing the data, they held an Open Data conference and workshop.

marktteiti

Speakers included Mark Regis from the TTEITI, Bevil Wooding from BrightPath, Patrick Hosein from Nic.tt, Dr. Kim Mallalieu from the UWI, Gerard Best from the Guardian and yours truly.

For the actual workshop session, I moderated the development of an app focused on using one of the core datasets – the differences between Government’s expected receipts and Companies’ reported payments.
That session was a mix of engineers, data analysts and journalists.  It included Nigel Henry of Solution By Simulation, Ria Jack from NIHERST, Anil Ramnanan from TTCS, Kyle De Freitas from the DCIT of UWI, Tori-Ann Haywood from the TTCSI and Kerry Peters, former president of MATT.
Though the time was short, we were able to get to an alpha version of the app. We’re looking forward to release it sometime soon.

This was the first time an actual agency in government presented its data in an open format and invited developers to come out and write apps on it. The app that resulted from the process allowed us to even think about the data differently and ask questions that we may not have asked.  It was a very good day and I’m glad we were able to be part of what I hope to be the first of many such initiatives.

Edit:

 

1.2 Million hits!

On Monday 4th November Trinidad & Tobago featured its fourth set of elections for the year.

Those elections were:

  1. The Tobago House of Assembly Elections – January 21
  2. The Chaguanas West By-Election – July 29
  3. The Trinidad & Tobago Local Government Elections – October 21
  4. The St. Joseph By-Election – November 4

I worked with Solutions By Simulations again to deliver coverage of the elections, and taking our learnings from Chaguanas West and the LGE, it was definitely our most successful outing!

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The results display was an automatically updated map of St. Joseph, with twitter providing the numbers as the occurred, too.

You could have kept track of the overall numbers by taking a look at the totals on the bottom.

We unveiled the feature promptly at six,

And from then til about 10pm we were the place to get information as quickly and reliably as possible.  We’ve been able to confirm, through a number of sources that most of the media houses covering the event had an eye on what we were doing.

Both the Trinidad Guardian & the Trinidad Express (who together have more than half the daily readership in Trinidad and Tobago were both using the results we generated.

The night was not without it’s challenges as the popularity of the service eventually brought the site to its knees a few times and our data gatherers had to resort to more prehistoric ways of getting data to us that we would have liked. Overall though, the comments we received were mostly positive and we’re definitely looking for ways to make it better and more robust!

#ChagWest: by-election

Recently,  I worked with Solution By Simulation to deliver election coverage results for the Trindad and Tobago Chaguanas West By-Election.

This was a huge deal for me, having actually started election coverage tracking from the last Trinidad and Tobago Local Government elections in 2010.  At that time, I was at one of the party headquarters – the PNM’s Balisier House.  It was pretty near to my office. I sat with the media, and as results came in, used my app to publish the details to an RSS feed.

This time, along with Nigel Henry’s team from SBS, we were gathering data from all three main parties, plus the EBC. Nigel, a pollster with experience in the 2008 Obama campaign, really knows his stuff. Whereas, I wrote an app to just collect results, he was geared to analyze and comment on what the results would actually be saying. Very cool stuff.

On election night – July 29, 2013, we had agents in the field as well as Nigel in the commentators’ box and me in the studio room. Things went pretty smoothly, both for us and as can be seen, the party in green.

Oh, the picture quality is pretty horrible because my phone’s camera is pretty lame.

Also, at the last moment before our team went on the road, we got support from the local Microsoft Office in the form of Windows 8 and Window Phone 8 devices.  Allowing us to say on air, “Communication Devices powered by Windows 8 & Windows Phone 8 Devices”, thanks, Microsoft!

Here’s a really nice tweet that drove home what we aimed to do during the evening.

 

Visualizing the 500

The FP Group provides global insight and analysis.  A friend had shared one of their articles with me, it listed, according to foreignpolicy.com, the 500 most powerful people on the planet.

It was a pretty jive list, but it essentially was this table of 500 people.  I felt for such a list, you should be able to sort, filter and even get some sense of aggregate information on the countries listed.

So, I made a bookmarklet that would let me apply those features to the table they provided.

This is what it looked like after I was done:

after[1]

As I wanted, you could now sort, filter or view a nice chart on the data presented.  All right from within the page, thus not having to navigate away.

The functionality for this can accessed here: http://irwinwilliams.github.io/DataVisualization-500MostPowerful/