Cambodia is developing at a fast pace but accessing information can be a challenge. At the GMF, Penhleak Chan took part in a DW Akademie panel and explained how an online-platform is helping create transparency.
"I see data-driven journalism as a more objective way of reporting," says Penhleak Chan, researcher and volunteer coordinator at Open Development Cambodia
OCD started up almost three years ago. What have been some of the other results? In addition to students and organizations requesting more information, we're also seeing that there’s been a positive reaction among conservation groups – especially when it comes to natural resources governance. We recently launched a forest cover mapping project. This was the first time that someone outside the government applied a scientific approach to providing the public with a long-term view of forest cover changes in Cambodia, and this was done without putting institutions in the hot seat.
How can Cambodian media benefit from open data? Many of Cambodia's media outlets have close ties with the government. Business interests are also determining media content. I see data-driven journalism as a more objective way of reporting, and as a safer and much more convincing way to tell a story.
The DW Akademie workshop focused on data-driven journalism. What was the approach? We trained twelve local participants including journalists, communication officers, and a journalism professor. They had no previous experience in data-driven journalism or in making sense of publicly available data for data-based stories. We created data visualizations and introduced new technical possibilities for looking at a story. This was unique because there is currently no other training in Cambodia that looks at data-driven journalism.
What effect did the workshop have? We all gained new insights on how to make sense of complex development issues by using story telling. We also saw that the numbers being reported by the mainstream media are not always consistent with what is happening in local communities. Rice farmers were interviewed by participants from the Women's Media Center of Cambodia (WMC), for example, and said they were barely making a living given the low prices that middlemen pay for their crops. At the same time, export statistics and news reports on rice production were showing net gains. At ODC we realize that we can't just look at the numbers from the mainstream sources but that we need to acknowledge and compare numbers from other alternative sources as well. In all, this type of cooperation between different media organizations could result in better civic participation and hopefully create a demand for better governance.
Open Development Cambodia was founded in 2011 with an aim to facilitate research and communication between the public, private companies, civil society, and governments. In January 2014, Penhleak Chan co-trained a DW Akademie workshop on data-driven journalism. It was part of a larger GIZ- funded project in Cambodia involving five media organizations and aimed at improving free expression and access to information.