sharing in governance of extractive industries

Making open data work for communities in the Philippines

This post was originally published on Extract-A-Fact on October 13, 2016

By Marco Zaplan, Research and Communications Officer, Bantay Kita

There are two types of disclosures. One is disclosure for the sake of transparency, while the other is disclosure that actually works for the people it is intended to help. Ensuring the latter is the philosophy Bantay Kita has applied to its engagement with natural resources data. 

When the Philippine's Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PHEITI) Country Report was first published in 2014, an incredible amount of data was made available to the public. As a civil society representative to the PHEITI Multi Stakeholder Group, Bantay Kita was tasked with making sure that the data was used to facilitate greater accountability.

On July 2016, Bantay Kita soft launched its DATA Portal - short for Demanding Action, Transparency, and Accountability Portal. The portal was conceptualized in Jakarta, Indonesia during the first Publish What You Pay Data Extractors Program workshop, and later brought to life in the second Data Extractors workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe.

How much did it cost? $0

What programming language was used? I'm not even sure - I don't know a single one.
How long did it take to make the prototype? Minus the snack breaks and random Facebook checking, about four hours.

All it really took was some creativity and a handful of free web tools, which can be learned by users in 1 to 6 hours, depending on the person’s willingness to learn.

The DATA Portal is community-targeted, hence it uses project-level, provincial and regional data related to oil, gas and mining extraction. Data was analyzed from the Philippine EITI Country Report and other sources, such as the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.​

​The portal includes data for all 18 administrative regions in the Philippines. Each "Regional Page" has subpages for its Extractive Projects Database, News about Extractives, andExtractives Statistics. On top of this, there are " Company Pages" where data for individual projects can be found, such as production numbers, government payments, employee demographics, social and environmental spending, community demographics, poverty incidence, transparency measure, and so on.

​There are digital metric tons of data available on extractives, but not all are relevant to specific communities. Since our soft launching in July, we have been traveling the Philippines to conduct open data workshops and collect locally translated versions of "data user templates." We ask local CSOs to fill them out, with a specific advocacy goal they are working on in mind, and ask what kind of data would best help them to influence decision makers and other stakeholders to support their advocacy goal. This makes the data we produce not only specific to a certain community, but also relevant to them.

​What's quite unique about the DATA Portal is that it's not simply a box full of big datasets and tables of data, but rather data visualizations and infographics to make the information easier to understand. This makes the the numbers less intimidating (especially for those traumatized by college algebra).

The next step for the DATA Portal is to make Action and Accountability happen. To that end, we hope to begin to provide communities with quarterly data - production and sales - disclosed by extractive companies through SMS. Since most taxes and royalties are based on sales, this information will enable local communities to estimate what subnational transfers from mining activities their communities should receive, and thus enable them to plan for the following year. This information can also be used by indigenous peoples’ organizations that receive royalties. Though schedule of payments can vary, at a minimum these disclosures will allow communities to validate the accuracy of the received funds.

Making a difference takes more than making data open. Stakeholders need to make these disclosures relevant to communities to actually make an impact. Through our DATA Portal, Bantay Kita hopes to do just that.

Marco Zaplan is the Research and Communications Officer for Bantay Kita. Follow him @zaplanmarco

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