From February 20 to 23, NDI convened 16 electoral experts and data-minded civil society leaders in Kyiv, Ukraine, for an intensive four-day Election Data Academy. As part of NDI’s Open Election Data Initiative (OEDI), these participants, representing 12 different countries*, were led through practical, hands-on modules developed by NDI that highlighted best practices for obtaining and using election data to advance electoral integrity.
The Academy not only focused on data analysis, but also on the extraction and conversion of "locked" file formats like PDF files, into comprehensive and analyzable formats like Excel spreadsheets. Participants were introduced to new tools recently developed by NDI — the Open Election Data Assessment Tool and a prototype of the Election Results Scraper Tool and Transcriber Tool, which help groups better understand data availability in their countries and quickly capture and convert handwritten tally sheets into analyzable data sets, respectively. Participants were also trained in using more advanced tools, such as the Python programming language and Jupyter notebooks so they can now move beyond Excel to analyze very large datasets such as a voter list with over five million records.
I came to notice the importance of the systematic management of data and information. Moreover, it widened my understanding to always consider about the importance of open data for the election monitoring process.
- Kyaw Zin Htike, Networks Coordinator for People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (Myanmar).
NDI’s Senior Program Manager for Elections Julia Brothers shares best practices on open data advocacy.
Throughout the Academy, election experts and civil society leaders actively applied new skills to both existing election data challenges and broader political process monitoring initiatives, such as parliamentary monitoring. Representatives from Burma and Tunisia were able to collaborate in writing a macro for Excel that created one master spreadsheet of the 2014 Tunisia presidential election results that previously existed in more than 200 separate files.
A group of participants also worked with representatives from Azerbaijan to use election data conversion tools to extract online legislative meeting notes. The extracted information will be used to analyze session participation of parliamentarians in the legislature.
A civil society leader and data expert from Georgia discusses how to use open election data during February’s Election Data Academy in Kyiv, Ukraine.
While participants were able to benefit from new tools and modules, after the event, several mentioned the significance of the group's diversity and how unstructured "free-play" sessions throughout the Academy were extremely helpful and specifically, according to the representative from NDI Lithuania, how these sessions illuminated "real life examples of what people did and how they used open data." In fact, the most common request from participants following the Academy was for even more “free-play” sessions at the next Academy and joint, structured exercises for teams of participants from different countries.
Building on the Academy, NDI will create an ongoing platform for participants to continue exchanging knowledge with each other when facing election data issues. Participants have already begun transferring knowledge gained at the Academy to their peers, evidenced by a "mini-academy" on open election data led by the Moldovan citizen observer group, PROMO-Lex, that took place on March 4.
A civil society leader from Moldova and NDI’s Senior Advisor for Elections, Michelle, take a look at election data and discuss best practices for analysis.
In addition, NDI will soon publish several election data training modules that were debuted at the Academy on the OEDI website and will share the Academy materials as well as a list of free and cost-efficient conversion and visualization tools with all 248 member organizations of the Global Network for Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM).
This event received support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
*These 12 countries are Ukraine, Burma, Tunisia, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Indonesia, Serbia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Lithuania.