Latin America's first DataBootCamp set to spark media innovation

by Mariano Blejman
Oct 30, 2018 in Media Innovation

Not only will the upcoming DataBootCamp in Bolivia be the first event of its kind in Latin America, it will be the highest-altitude data journalism event the world has seen so far.

Journalists, programmers and designers will gather in the capital, La Paz, whose altitude reaches more than 11,800 feet (3,600 meters) above sea level. But the event itself will represent just the first step of a steep yet unstoppable climb toward using open data in the region.

When governments release data in any form, the data need to be interpreted by people trained to verify and make sense of the information. At this event, we will bring together top-notch data journalism trainers from around the world to teach basic data journalism workflows to local journalists from Bolivia's mainstream media. The participants will then go back to their newsrooms and share what they learned.

The event in La Paz, which I’m organizing as part of my ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellowship with the support of the World Bank Institute (WBI) and the Open Aid Partnership, will be more than just a productive space to gather journalists and programmers. It will accelerate the culture of media innovation by establishing open data processes throughout the region and by creating a Latin American network to rethink the production processes of journalism. We want to build a process of engagement and participation throughout the region. The boot camp will also serve as the first major test of OpenDataLatinoamerica, a site that is bringing together data sets from across the region.

These boot camps are intensive training courses that take a team-based approach to creating projects and teaching new skills. The DataBootCamps were created by ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow Justin Arenstein, the African Media Initiative and the World Bank Institute (WBI). The first was held in Kenya in January 2012. The approach has since been used in several countries and already has yielded projects such as Where Did My Tax Dollars Go, Lord's Resistance Army Crisis Tracker and County Sin Rankings.

The Bolivia event, held June 12-14, will feature data journalism rock stars such as Chase Davis of The New York Times; Michael Bauer of the Open Knowledge Foundation; ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow Miguel Paz; recent Knight Fellow Sandra Crucianelli of Sololocal; Andy Tow of Argentine Electoral Atlas; Mariana Berruezo of Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires and Victoria Esteves of DATA, the Uruguayan organization hosting the “unconference” AbreLatam in Montevideo before Uruguay’s upcoming Open Data Conference.

To attend a DataBootCamp is a dream come true for the geek journalist and the hacker with a civic vision. It involves creating a community of people eager to work in a new way. Participants learn by working together to solve information problems. For journalists who normally compete with one another to come to the boot camp and start collaborating is brilliantly disruptive to their way of thinking. Many times, an event turns out to be just the beginning.

The response to our call for participants was fabulous. We received 170 applications for 90 spaces in the boot camp. Now, 90 journalists and programmers from Bolivia’s major media organizations are ready to set aside their regular work for three days to embark on the adventure of telling stories with data.

Mariano Blejman is an editor and media entrepreneur specializing in data-driven journalism. Read about his Knight Fellowship here.

This post was translated from Spanish into English and edited by Jennifer Dorroh.

Photo courtesy of Guillermo A. Durán in Flickr.