We have talked elsewhere about the rationale and process of building Takwimu and the human centred design process led by iHub. Here we elaborate on key elements of the methodology behind the analysis and data.
The ten Takwimu country profiles were originally researched and written by the africapracticeteam of analysts between November 2017 and May 2018. Each country analyst is regionally specialised and experienced in conducting political economy research and analysis. The profiles were developed based on detailed key respondent interviews held with national government and development partner sources and a parallel review of public record information. In this manner, information gleaned through stakeholder conversations was checked against public reporting to corroborate insights and data where possible. The narrative profiles are intended to provide a balanced view on the political economy and stakeholder landscape behind the human development statistics in each country.
Profiles are updated regularly in response to national electoral cycles and other important political, budgetary or economic events. A senior editorial review takes place at least six months to provide additional quality assurance. Content reviews occur in collaboration with the Code for Africa data team who create the associated data visuals.
Sourcing the data
We have found a lot of variation in the availability, quality and granularity of data across our focus geographies. Some top-level national data have been sourced through existing, well maintained public datasets such as AFDB open data portal (itself referencing IMF, WEO and others) and UNDP Human Development reports. At the thematic/sectoral level, the picture is more mixed. For example, for health data, in addition to WHO, there are some excellent international sources including IHME and PEPFAR.
We have catalogued and evaluated similar sources across other key sectors during project inception. Other data such as budgetary information and expenditures are partially sourced through existing initiatives such as OpenSpending and the World Bank Open Budgets initiativeand through some of the new breed of geospatial datasets like the China Aid portal and Wazimap in South Africa.
Much of the data, particularly at the sub-national level, have required more digging out and sourcing in-country directly from the relevant agencies. A significant effort continues to be expended to clean up and reformat these datasets, so that they’re comparable country to country, as open data.
Code for Africa has led the work on data sourcing. It brings specialist skills and experience to this task, including working directly with data owners – both within government and outside in the non-profit and commercial sectors – to help digitise and transform data into actionable information.
Open-Access & Open-Source Solution
Given the importance of providing an open, publicly-accessible service, we have focused on systematically approaching each feature and component to good open data and open source practices of: easy intuitive access – searchability – machine-readability – metadata – clear data licenses – data preview/visualization – standards compliance – application programming interface (to ingest and export data) – and security.
The platform has been built to ensure it has flexibility, accessibility and scalability built in from the outset – not only in terms of the potentially increasing depth and geographical scope of the data but also in the operation of the platform, which should be capable of transitioning over time from wholly centralised management to a more distributed and locally-owned approach.
Takwimu is built on HURUmap that itself is built on top of the Knight News Challenge funded Census Reporter, Wazimap open source technologies. HURUmap focusses on helping users discover the stories behind the data – insight otherwise not obvious from looking at spreadsheets. It is also built on the Django Framework, a highly extensible Python framework. HURUmap’s core technology has been successfully deployed, supported, and re-used across the African continent, the Americas, and Asia. Also of note, Census Reporter is supported by teams that work at Mozilla.
A range of Takwimu services to encourage and support excellence in data-driven policy development, programming, advocacy and journalism.
All core Takwimu services are free, including freedom to search and browse all the content and re-use in your own materials. We only ask that you respect the Creative Commons copyright and attribute Takwimu when re-publishing.
We also provide a responsive user support service (currently email only) – and will always endeavour to troubleshoot any technical problems or challenges our community may face in finding and making best use of Takwimu content.
We also recognise that some users will have additional needs, which may include:
We are evaluating the demand for value-adding services such as these – and how we can best organise to deliver them. If you have any enquiries about value-add services please contact us to register your interest and we will be in touch to discuss.
Takwimu is a free and open development information service that aims to transform access to high quality analysis & data for African development policy makers, practitioners and advocates. We have launched because – right now – uneven access to quality development information is obstructing local participation and weakening the impact of policy and programming in Africa. There is often no single, objective source of truth on development indicators, especially at subnational level, so it takes time, resources and effort to chase down information to strengthen a proposal, champion a cause or advocate for change. Most international or other ‘apex’ organisations have no trouble accessing and using the data they need, whilst others, especially smaller or younger organisations face challenges and end up effectively locked out of the debate.