Although its impact might not always be obvious or evident, data pierces through every imaginable sphere of modern society. This also rings true for open data, which is by definition “data than can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone”. Governments all over the world, including in Southeast Asia, in recent years have tried to make open data more accessible to the public in an effort to show transparency.
The project “Data2Life. Life2Data”, initiated by the Goethe-Institut Indonesien in collaboration with the Web’s Foundation Open Data Labs Jakarta and PannaFoto Institute, aimed to visualize open data through photography and show how it affects the everyday life of people in Indonesia.
At first sight, these two elements don’t seem to go well together but the project’s unique approach succeeded in bringing data to life and life to data.
The project kicked off with a workshop held in Yogyakarta where a dozen participants – most of them from NGOs in and around Yogyakarta – came together to discuss what angle of open data they wanted to portray.
“Since none of the participants had a background in photography, we first organized a session where they learned the basics of taking meaningful and expressive pictures,” said Christel Mahnke, Goethe Institut Indonesien’s Head of Information and Library. “Given the fact that they only received little training, the results are even more impressive.”
The participants chose to work on a variety of topics from different perspectives. With the help of open data provided by the local governments, they examined how and if money was spent the way it was intended to, for instance for the maintenance of public schools, the improvement of public health services or waste management – proving that open data can also be seen as empowerment and strengthening of civil society.
The series of photographs were first exhibited in Yogyakarta and afterwards in Jakarta. A selection of photographs was also shown at the International Open Data Conference in Madrid in early October.
The photo exhibition in Jakarta was part of the inaugural Southeast Asia Open Data Innovation Week that brought together innovators from the whole region for a series of discussions and to create an open data innovation “toolbox”.
“We are planning more projects in the field of open data and digital-related topics such as gaming and apps,” Christel Mahnke said. “Among others, this will be a focus for the Goethe-Institut next year.”