What I extracted from the PWYP data extraction workshop

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In my quest to play a role in improved mineral revenue transparency in Zimbabwe, I applied to become a PWYP Data Extractor, a new project by Publish What You Pay’s (PWYP) International. To kick the programme off, I joined the first data extraction workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia in November 2015. It gave me an in-depth appreciation of the opportunities for digging for data beyond borders to enable citizens of resource rich countries to hold their governments to account. The workshop also equipped me with key skills to use various tools for data extraction, cleaning, wrangling and visualisation.

Opportunities were created to interact and learn from different country specific contexts. It was invaluable to learn how PWYP Indonesia uses drones for monitoring mining impact on environment and how PWYP Philippines uses infographics to share data in a simple, concise and understandable format. The development of simple messages by PWYP Niger, making statistics ridiculously simple and easy to understand, was also a key learning point. These examples are powerful tips on using extractives data for effective advocacy.

Below are some critical learning lessons from the PWYP organised data extraction workshop;

Extracting data beyond borders

It was quite helpful that the data extraction workshop shared key transparency and accounting regulatory developments on the international front meant for the extractive sector. The European Union (EU), United Kingdom (UK), Canada and United States of America (USA) have come up with raft of mandatory disclosure rules and measures. The mandatory disclosure rules offer some respite to citizens of resource rich countries starved of information to hold their governments accountable.

The Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), PWYP UK and PWYP USA were on hand to share in depth knowledge on how such opportunities can be harnessed for improving data access on extractives. More so, the aforementioned organisations offered to partner with interested organisations on data extraction beyond borders. I had a brief discussion with PWYP UK on exploring prospects for extracting data relating to mining companies listed in the UK and operating in Zimbabwe.

As a test case, we explored Pickstone Peerless Gold mine which is owned by Vast Resources. Unfortunately, the company is listed in the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) which isn’t covered by the UK transparency and accounting directives. However, this presented an opportunity for PWYP Zimbabwe to partner with PWYP UK to push for the inclusion of AIM listed extractive companies under the UK accounting and transparency directive.

It was PWYP Canada that played a critical role in generating our initial interest in mining data. In 2012, they introduced us to the idea of extracting data on SEDAR related to Zimbabwe mine projects owned by companies listed in Canada such as Blanket Gold Mine which is owned by Caledonia.

Data Advocacy Tips

“Be careful how to handle an avalanche of data on extractives. Prioritisation becomes critical given the host of disclosures in the extractives”

This was one of my major learning points from the data extraction workshop. That is, the necessity of planning and prioritising data that can be analysed and tapped for effective transparency and accountability advocacy on mineral resource governance. I have been involved in various analysis of data for advocacy purposes, among others the audited financial statements from the Auditor General’s reports on Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), a state owned mining entity , Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) public statistics on diamonds , voluntary disclosure by mining companies and national budget statements . This work could have benefited a lot from a comprehensive scan of the various types of information and sources to prioritise impactful data that would strengthen advocacy initiatives.

Another profound tip on data advocacy was using the extracted data to come up with a Killer Fact. From PWYP Niger, the invaluable illumination was on crafting simple messages that made statistics ridiculously simple and easy to understand. For instance, “in Niger, almost 90% of the population doesn’t have access to electricity. This in a country that is the fourth largest producer of uranium and produces enough uranium to light one in every three light-bulbs in France” – Click here for more details.

Data visualisation

Learning and experience sharing on the use of data visualisation tools such Tableau, Google fusion and Canva was quite invaluable. Many a times, I have been involved in generating and disseminating critical data on mineral revenue management for impacted mining communities, legislators, media and government departments. I have also been involved in analysis of national budget statements, audited financial statements of state owned and private companies and corporate social investments.
The workshop on data extraction clearly made me realise that some data visualisation deficiencies in my work can hinder easy uptake of information by different users. For instance, policy makers have limited time to labour through voluminous documents and some community members may not be statistically astute. In such cases, data visualisations may help overcome such challenges and promote greater use of data.

It was quite interesting to see the work that PWYP Philippines is doing on data visualisations, particularly their eye-catching infographics on poor contribution of mining to the country’s economy.

Court disputes can be a vital source

The salient features of some secretive mining deals can spill into the public domain through court disputes involving mining companies and government. The Zimbabwe Environment Law Association (ZELA) has explored this through PWYP Zimbabwe by analysing court judgements as was the case with the dispute between Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) and Zimbabwe Platinum Mines (Zimplats) on Additional Profit Tax (APT) and 2.5% royalty stabilisation clause for a period of 25 years .

Tweeting #PWYPOpenData

I could not resist the temptation of vigorously sharing on Twitter the proceedings of the data extraction workshop. Using the Twitter hash tag #PWYPOpenData, one can access valuable snippets such as various tools and tips that can be harnessed to promote easy data extraction, data cleaning, data wrangling, data visualisation and for improving transparency and accountability in the extractive sector.

Home country data extraction programmes work plan

Data extractors were asked to come up with participatory data extraction country programmes. The conceptual intent of my work plan was to influence improved transparency and accountability in Zimbabwe’s mining sector by promoting greater awareness, understanding and usage of various open data platforms at national, regional and international level among civil society organisations particularly PWYP Zimbabwe.

The key intervention being participatory mapping of opportunities offered by existing mandatory and voluntary disclosure data platforms for community based organisations and civil society organisations in Zimbabwe’s mineral rich provinces.

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