A Shortage of psychiatrists is a problem in Africa

The stories

I just returned from a week long trip in Tanzania where I have been researching about dementia. Without pre-emptying my story I found that there is a shortage of mental health workers. But I didn’t want this to be anecdotal so I went to the World Health Organization website for statistics and compiled the graphs below.

Psychiatry has the lowest median of health workers for the whole of Africa at 0.06.

But what are the country statistics? The map below the numbers of mental health workers in 50 African states. Click this link to see the interactive data

 

Africa compares poorly with other regions such as the Organisation for Economic and Co-operation Development whose median number of psychiatrists in its 34 member states is 20.

Sebastiana Nkomo from the World Health Organization, attributes the shortage of mental health workers to stigma.

“Mental health has been regarded as a non- priority area of health compared to other health areas. Health professionals themselves  in the past( 10-12 years ago) considered mental health as a non-lucrative area of work compared to other health areas,” Nkomo says.

The result is that patients cannot access the required medical care.

“Access to mental health services is limited due to the shortage of professionals who are mostly concentrated in big cities thus leaving the population in the peripheral or remote areas without access to services,” Nkomo says.

Malaria hot spots

The stories

25 April is World Malaria Day, held every year to recognise the efforts being made to control the deadly disease. This year’s theme is ‘Invest in the future: defeat malaria.’ Let’s see where investments made in Africa would need to focus to make the greatest impact

Where malaria is endemic

The map below shows the countries where malaria is endemic. A link to this map is also provided here  which shows actual figures for each country.

 

Sheet 2

 

The graph below is of countries with the highest number of estimated cases of malaria

This graph shows the countries which have the least numbers of malaria cases in Africa

 

 

African newsrooms shy away from data

Community

Newsrooms need data journalism to improve the quality and credibility of their work, writes Paul Wafula 

Paul Wafula

Paul Wafula

Data journalism is a news source that journalists will need to make use of not only to reinvent their field but also to find exclusive stories that can help sell their publications.

Sadly Kenyan newsrooms have, however, not fully embraced it. There is scepticism that stories  can come out of anything other than an interview or report.  Some editors also feel that data journalism supersedes the role of an expert and worry that if the data is something a journalist has scrapped on their own there will be nobody to attribute it to.

The need to always attribute to an external source is borne out of a fear that if problems arise  with the data, publications will not be able to say this is not our report but someone else’s. But I believe that data journalism helps journalists to take ownership of their work and provides a platform for them to be more transparent. This can only help to develop the industry and generate topical and exclusive stories.

Get help

Data journalism also certainly helps to build relationships with experts and officials that can only strengthen a journalist’s list of contacts and give them credibility. Why do I say that? When I worked on my story on health budgets in Kenyan counties I relied on experts in health statistics. Different government departments and agencies produce different bits of the same data but it’s not coordinated or integrated. I approached each one and by pulling their data together on the same spreadsheet I was able to collate statistics on  what each county had budgeted for health and if this fit the national health goals. But this wasn’t my only stop.

I approached some organisations and researchers who helped point out what was missing in my data and how to analyse it correctly, which eliminated inaccuracies. Journalists must be aware that they can tell a wrong story from the data that they have. Bouncing the story to someone  helps to eliminate problems of having inaccurate or incomplete data and build relationships with people who can point journalists to other datasets that they can use for future stories. It will also reassure their editors and company lawyers who may worry of lawsuits.

   Numbers don’t lie

Data journalism  also raises the integrity to stories and  makes it difficult to dispute what papers publish. I found this difference when I published my health and other stories. The data was indisputable. It spoke for itself resulting in counties revising their budgets. Government public relations machines can easily deny or dispute stories if they are not supported by any data.

But with data, a story is not only credible but can generate impact that allows journalists to effectively play their role as society’s watchdogs. My story led to two strikes by nurses and doctors because it made it clear that hospitals and counties would not able to pay their salaries because of the budget deficits. This shows the story’s  impact and also illustrates how data journalism can be used to predict a crisis before it happens.

Data journalism is the future. In this age of social media journalists need to reinvent  news reporting. Data journalism makes the reinvention possible as it allows publications to provide their readers with stories they can not find elsewhere.

Paul Wafula is a data journalist for The Standard in Kenya. His infographics on how the 47 Kenyan counties had under-budgeted on their health spending in their rush to meet the 30 June 2013 deadline set by the Public Finance Management Act  is here on his blog.

What is big data?

The stories

Big data has become a buzz word in the development lingo. Its origin is the United Nations high-level panel’s report on the post-2015 objectives.  The report details some priorities that the post Millennium Development Goals agenda should be focusing on from 2016 to enable countries to reduce poverty.

Its premise is that if governments and development organisations provide big data on various projects they are implementing, citizens may be able to assess their performance and hold them accountable. But what is big data?

Robert Hanna, the coordinator for Sanitation Water and People, explains:

Lending a helping hand to data journalists

Community, The stories

Organisation spearheads collaboration between programmers and journalists to help the latter acquire data journalism skills.

Data journalism is increasingly becoming a popular form of journalism. Its potential in helping scribes tell a compelling story has seen an exponential growth in projects that involve data journalism across the world. But in South Africa, this form of journalism is lagging behind due to a lack of skills. A group of geeks, has however, developed a project that seeks to train journalists to work with data.

Photo credit: Rob Enslin. Project to build data journalism teams in South African newsrooms

Adi Eyal who leads Code for South Africa, the organisation that is leading the project, speaks about this new venture they will embark on this month.

Tell us about Code for South Africa

We are an organisation that is pushing for open data in South Africa. We don’t have a culture of questioning, engaging and using information and we want to change that. Our role is to promote the use of data.

We are focused on finding answers to questions like how do we start to get people using the data that already exists? How can people use available information to make decisions about where they live or where they should send their child to school? We are focused on making people to use the information available to make informed decisions.

Where does the journalism project fit in and why the media initiative?

Journalists come to us and say they need skills. This is in response to that.

What will the media initiative involve?

This is a project that will run for six months. We will work to build data journalism teams in selected newsrooms. There are people already working as designers, software developers and journalists within newsrooms. We will create teams out of these and teach them how to work with data, where they can get it, how to clean it and what to use it for. The teams members’ different skill set should complement each other and help their publications use data to tell compelling stories. We are trying to create rock star teams out of the people that newsrooms have.

Photo credit: Sean MacEntee. Data is a tool for telling a story

What data skills do newsrooms need?

Being able to access data and visualise data is important. Journalists must also have a maturity about data. This sounds touchy feely but data journalism is about understanding how to take a project from concept and what you require to turn it to a final product, which can be  cumbersome.

Data journalism has a project managerial component. One needs to see the process from start to finish.

There is need to understand and interpret it. Journalists must also verify the data because it can’t be trusted by itself.

All those skills are important.

Where can journalists find data? Where do you find yours?

There is a lot of information that is already available from various websites. It comes from the different places, such as municipality and government websites. We put it together in one place and turn it to a product that is easy to use.

Can you give us an example of one such product that you have developed?

We have developed a medical price database. Medicine prices are regulated in South Africa meaning there is a maximum amount customers should pay but people don’t know that.

We have built a mobile app that allows people to punch in the name of a medicine and it will tell them what the regulated price is and see if the pharmacy is charging that.

How easy is it to find data?

It’s not easy. There is no official open data policy. There is data that is available but no process through which data is made accessible. The Promotion of Access to Information Act insists that data must be made available rather than government proactively release it.

This is not an effective way of getting information. The process requires you to contact an information officer of the respective department from which you are seeking information. Sometimes their email bounces or they do not respond to emails. Requests can also be ignored or rejected on baseless grounds. You can appeal but that is a time consuming and expensive process. It doesn’t make it the best way of extracting data.

Any advice for data journalists?

Photo: Esther Vargas. Journalists need to be proactive in learning data skills

Journalists in South Africa can join their local hackshackers, which provides a platform for journalists and data programmers to get together to talk about data journalism projects.

Meet up with other people from your profession and from a completely different world.

It is wrong to think that just because you are not a software developer you can’t be involved.

There also needs to be more data stories. Build skills to help you dig below surface and use tools that can help ordinary readers understand the information you are relating.

Crucial elements of data journalism

Data tools and advice

Data journalism is a form of investigative journalism that tells a story through graphs, maps and other infographics. Peter Aldhous, a US-based journalist, says it is also a form of investigative journalism. It isn’t just about the figures but a good data story is a combination of various elements that are explored below.

Know where to find data 

Knowing where to find data is crucial

William Shubert, a senior project coordinator at the Earth Journalism Network (EJN), says knowing where to find is a useful skill for data journalists.

Adi Eyal, the director for Code for South Africa, an organisation pushing for open data, says the starting point in looking for data is online.

Finding data online is ideal for journalists working in Africa where some governments have put controls on the type of information that can be released.

Eyal’s organisation created a site that provides information about ward councillors in Western Cape and the projects that they are working on. Some of the data was scrapped from the website of the City of Cape Town and some came from government departments. Eyal says looking for data from various sources to use in a single data story is ideal for journalists.

“There is a lot of data available. Look for data from all sorts of places,” he says.

Countries like Kenya have made it easy by creating its own open data site. In South Africa, the Promotion of Acccess to Information Act enables data enthusiasts and journalists to access information from state departments.

Scrapping data

It doesn’t end with finding the right sources of data. Quite often the data comes in a format that is not easy to extract and analyse.

No need for a headache: tutorials will show you how to scrap the data

There are also various free tools that allow journalists and other users to extract data. These include outwit hub, google refine and import.io. Using them requires knowledge. Code for South Africa is part of a network of African open data organisations. Other networks are in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya and they provide training to help journalists acquire such skills.

EJN also provides training and online resources that journalists can use. One such resource is the geojournalism handbook, which provides tutorials. Data journalism writer and trainer Paul Bradshaw also provides tutorials on his online blog.

Query the data 

Aldhous says querying the data is an important part of the journalistic process. Most journalists don’t have these kind of skills but will need to “befriend” a scientist who can help with the statistical analysis of the data, says Steve Connor, the science editor for The Independent.

Don’t take the data at face value

Querying would involve being aware of problems the data set has.

“What is missing from it? What errors does it have? Question everything. Check it out. If your mother says she loves you, you check it out,” Aldhous says.

Querying would also clear biases to ensure that that journalists “don’t debunk bad science by doing bad science,” says Deborah Cohen, the investigative editor at the BMJ.

Analysis and visualisation

Visualisation will help attract the reader to your story

Querying also involves analysis to see what trends are derived from it. Providing it in a tabular form or in an excel document can be quite daunting for the reader. There are data tools that are available that help journalists to visualise their data in a way that makes it palatable and easy to read. Such tools include Datawrapper, Geobatch, and Tableau.

Writing the story 

Be clear and concise

A data story isn’t just about the numbers. Brad Parks, the executive director of AidData, a good data story has to “break it down to something understandable.” It must be relevant and timely too, he says.

Aldhous says it must be accompanied by a compelling narrative that would be easy and enjoyable to ready.

Using outwit hub to scrap data

Data tools and advice

Last year I embarked on a project to map how much and where the US’s National Institutes of Health spends its funding for research in Africa. This was done with the intention of writing a special issue on the NIH, one of the major health research funders in Africa.Its clout means that a lot of researchers are interested in where and how it spends its money in Africa and relevant for Research Africa, a science policy publication that I write for. I spent months on the project but only managed to transfer a few entries from a website the organisation uses to store data about  recipients of their funding. The project turned out to be cumbersome and time consuming so I put it aside for a while (because I don’t believe in giving up).

That was until this year when I learnt how to use outwit hub. This tool allowed me to scrap the NIH website to extract the data I needed. It converted it to excel so that it would be easier to use.

Now I will show you how outwit hub helped me do  months’ work in 20 minutes.

The page

First you will need to download outwit hub to your computer.  It will bring you to this page.

Select extension mozilla for firefox and download.

 

An outwit hub icon will show at the corner of your page, which you need to click on to open outwit hub

 

When outwit hub has opened, copy the url of the web page where you want to collect data from. In this example, its the NIH url

Paste it onto outwit hub.

On the left there is a list of options. Select scrapers

 

It will open to this page. Click new and this will allow you to create a folder that you can use to scrap the data. Give the folder a name.

Open the folder by clicking the top panel on the scrapers page.

Once opened it will have blank spaces. Use those to list the categories you want to scrap. The list can be guided by the one used on the website.  In this case Acts, Project title, project leader, organisation, funder and costs.

Once you have listed the categories, return to the left side of outwit hub and click page sources. This is what will show

 

Page sources provide codes for the categories you want to list. We will use the example of Acts on the NIH webpage. I initially made the mistake of selecting codes from the category

And this was the result

 

Instead copy the codes that are written before one of the examples on the category, which is UO1 in this case.

Paste them on the category you have listed on outwit hub

 

Copy the code after. Paste it on the scraper as done earlier

 

Click save and execute. This will be the result


I want the project titles so go back to page source again. Copy the codes before one of the actual project, which is University of KwaZulu-Natal CAPRISA HIV Clinical Trials Unit, in this case. Paste it onto the project title category listed on your scrapper. Copy the codes after and paste

Repeat the process for all other categories. Save and executive.

This will be result

 

Ci

Click export at the bottom of the page

And voila! In 20 minutes you will have an excel spreadsheet of your that you can analyse.

 

 

Data journalists to use skills to resolve conflict in the Congo Basin

The stories

Journalists in Central Africa hope to use data to aid in efforts to resolve conflict and illegal timber trading in the region.

Project will map extent of degradation

Project will map extent of degradation

Illegal timber trading is decimating the forest reserves in the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest rain forest. Much of the trading is fuelled by government troops and rebels to pay for war related expenses in the  Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The impact of the decimation on communities hasn’t been documented but journalists in Central Africa are hoping to change that. Ten publications from Cameroon, the DRC, and the Republic of Congo are joining forces to collect data that would help map the extent of environmental degradation in the Congo Basin.

Five-year project

The publications will work together in a five-year collaborative project that is being coordinated by Earth Journalism Network (EJN), says EJN senior project coordinator, William Shubert.

“We will collect information from satellites,” Shubert says.

For EJN, using the data from satellites is also a solution to the challenges of the unavailability and inaccessibility to data that many African countries face.

He says for journalists working in countries that have strict controls on data, using existing data sets may help them leverage national governments to make data available.

Shubert, who uses the term geojournalism to describe the work that the journalists will do, says they will use satellite data to map the extent of the degradation in the rain forest.

People’s stories will provide context

They will not stop at that. The journalists are hoping to speak to local communities whose lives have been impacted by the degradation so their stories can provide meaning to the data.

“A data journalist must be able to translate knowledge to their communities. We will use data as evidence and use people’s stories to provide context of what the data means,” he says.

It also helps to make the stories easier to read and palatable for the general public, he adds.

Data to transform lives

Data to change lives

Data to change lives

Shubert believes in the potential of data journalism to transform the lives of communities that journalists work in. He says journalists will need to acquire a diversity of skills to be able to fulfil this role.

This is a lesson the organisation learnt from InfoAmazonia, a project that they developed to map logging and deforestation in the Amazon, the world’s largest rain forest. EJN also developed Ekuatorial.

His organisation will provide training to journalists involved in the Congo Basin project to enable them to analyse, visualise and contextualise the data that they collect. The first meeting will be held in September.

“Building such a network will help to get the stories to readers in various countries and in the international community,” he says.

The meeting will also teach the journalists how to access data.

“To know where to get data and how it can be useful is an important skill for a data journalist,” Shubert says.

Picture credit: Flickr/David Holt and See-ming Lee

More South African research chairs awarded to natural sciences

The stories

ON 3 March, the South African deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, announced new chairs for an initiative meant to attract world class researchers into its universities.

The government has invested R1.1billion (US$104.7 m) into the South African Research Initiatives (SARChi) since it began in 2005.

A total of 150 chairs have also been awarded to date. Lets look at how the chairs have been distributed.

18 out of a total of 23 public universities have been awarded chairs. Here is the list of the 18 universities

SARChi

UCT has the highest number of chairs at 32. UCT continues to maintain its position of Africa’s best performing university in rankings such as the QS World University Rankings.

 

The gender of only 54 of the research chairs was stated. Seventy-two percent of these are male.

A bulk of these chairs have been awarded to natural sciences

Number of chairs by discipline

Disciplines

https://infogr.am/number-of-chairs-in-disciplines?src=web

Race is an emotive and topical  issue in South Africa so I had to analyse the distribution of research chairs for 54 research chairs whose race was mentioned. Only 10 of the chairs were awarded to the previously disadvantaged races (during the apartheid era), which are black, coloured and Indian

https://infogr.am/research-chairs-by-race?src=web

Is age really just a number? A review of a Mail and Guardian story

Data tools and advice

I write a lot of science and science policy but I am a firm believer that politics can influence science. So I was excited to see the interactive map that the South African Mail and Guardian had done on the ages of leaders across the globe. They are talking of my president too so I am bound to be even more interested in the story, titled, When it comes to Mugabe, age is just a number.

Judging from the number is data stories in the data section the Mail and Guardian is relatively new to the field. Let’s examine how they have handled the data.

The data tool

They have used tableau, which allows users to visualise and share their data for free. Tableau has other options, which you have to pay for this article shows you can do a good data story with free resources.

 The length

It’s short and concise yet provides enough information to enable the reader to understand what the story is about. However, there is a downside to the length as it doesn’t allow the paper to provide context to the story.

The chart

They have used an interactive chart that allows you to see the age of each country leader when you click the dots. It’s clear for anyone to understand even those who are terrified by graphs like I used to be.

Each region has been assigned its colour, which is good because you will know which region the president of a country you have clicked is in. Let’s face it not all of us know how many countries are in the world, let alone which region they fall under. The story provides a good geography lesson and fulfils the one of the key roles of the media, which is to educate.

 The map

You have to click each country to see the age of the president for that specific country. I don’t think you need a map when you have a chart.

 Context

I like data stories that provide context. This is a fun data story but it doesn’t provide any context. I expected to be told why I, as a reader, I should care about the ages of the presidents.

A comment from a political analyst would have helped or comparing how countries who are led by older presidents perform against those with younger leaders.

The big lesson from this is that data stories should provide context.