Transparency and Data Interpretation

Yesterday night I wrote this on my twitter feed: Transparency without
an interpretation of what you’re seeing is stupid.

I got to this point listening to a YouTube video on danah boyd
speaking at the Personal Democracy forum last year. Her speech was all
about how transparency must be combined with data literacy and
information interpretation skills for it to be effective.

The point is even more true in India and when you add on the
complexity of language and level of education, this becomes even more
important and difficult. It also becomes more important since the US
Government says India is the example in open government to follow. We
have to identify and let people who adopt our open government
initiative understand the limitations and adapt.

One solution to this is information graphics made popular in recent
times by websites such as informationisbeautiful.com. These are easier
to convey to an adult population with partial literacy. Imagine how
people handed a huge file would feel when they were afraid of even a
school text. Infographics on a single page with an email id and a
phone number which tells you details of the infographic is more simple
to handle.

However, not all information can be put up in terms of infographics
and it is for the IT and design guys to take up the challenge of how
to convey information already made transparent to people who need it
the most and who may be illiterate or cannot pay to access such
information. The people who do access this information also need to
learn about how to use it and how to interpret it.

Although the Government of India has started putting out information
it hasn’t pushed for its usage like the US or UK. But Indians, being
Indians have started utilising this data. I have started finding blogs
that have started linking to this data and who have used this data to
make infographics. A few media outlets also use this tool very
effectively to emphasise their story. This data provides possibility
for a coder, provides the need for data literacy for the transparency
activist and calls for creative display of this data from designers.

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