Three months ago, I arrived in Durban to study South African social and political transformation at the School for International Training. During my time in Durban, I have had the opportunity to learn about the political systems in South Africa, live with families in Bonella and Wentworth, and learn a bit of isiZulu. For the last month of my studies in SA, I’m interning at Open Data Durban as a part of my independent study project: Utilising Open Data for Positive Social Change.
I originally met Matt and Richard in early May to discuss the possibility of an internship with ODD. They shared their philosophies on open data with me and invited me to work with them. One month later, I had a desk in the “dev cave” (the room where the development/data science team works) and started working on my first project.
So far, my time at ODD has been exciting, rewarding, and an incredible learning experience. I study Computer Science and Africana Studies at Brown University in the United States and have always wondered how I could combine my two fields of study to create positive social change and ODD has allowed me to do just that. On my second day at ODD, I began working on my first project creating a widget for the Mpumalanga Civic Media Initiative. This widget is a civic tool that allows users to search for the prices of medications and compare those prices with similar products. Because this widget uses open data from a database which stores the maximum price that a medicine can be charged at in South Africa, users can use this tool to make informed decisions about the medications that they purchase and keep track of changes to their medication costs.
Tools such as this medicine price widget are great examples of the ways that open data can be used to help the public make decision informed by data in their daily lives. ODD not only advocates for data-driven, bottom-up social change but they also work every day to create this change in a very thoughtful and purposeful way. I’ve had a great time working ODD these last few weeks and can’t wait to see what the last couple of weeks have in store.
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