Ready, Steady, Go: #ddiMENA Is Here!

Last week, we were telling you about the most exciting of events at this beginning of 2016: the Data-Driven Innovation in MENA series of workshops. All of us, be it Open MENA, be it at the IDRC, at and elsewhere, have been hard at work fine-tuning the last details of the programme. Here is, in a nutshell, what you may have missed — and how not to miss out any detail anymore.

Data-driven innovation in MENA: The way forward. Image by the IDRC

Data Literacy in the MENA region

Abed Khooli, an independent researcher from Palestine, has been working with the American University in Cairo – Egypt, Birzeit University in Palestine and Al-Akhawayn University in Morocco to explore challenges and opportunities for increasing data literacy in the MENA region. The main conclusions are:

  1. Data science is still in its infancy in MENA. An increasing level of awareness and some related events exist, but the region is still lagging behind compared to other economies of similar strength. Awareness is not only about existence or value but extends to all levels: data governance, security and ethics.
  2. Most interest is driven by marketing efforts from major players in the region, rather than by institutionalised strategies and initiatives.
  3. Data science education is almost absent from educational and training institutions in the region although occasional events and resources may exist.
  4. The region lacks trained and professional data science practitioners. Those who trained outside are likely to be attracted by industry rather than academia.
  5. Mainstream economic cultural practices extend to data-driven markets and are likely to add another layer of challenges to data silos and knowledge hoarding. It was challenging to get people to talk even in general terms about their ‘data dreams’.
  6. There are very few home-grown companies and startups offering data products. Entrepreneurs can hardly find investors or secure new contracts.
  7. Data journalism and media focus on entrepreneurship is still fragile. Media favour traditional industries and approaches.
  8. On the brighter side, there are a few initiatives in data governance and open data in the region. Infrastructure, computing resources and technologies are not part of significant challenges due to the affordable cloud resources and open source technologies.

The full report (last updated on 8 Feb 2016) has more details, a gap analysis and several recommendations for the MENA region. Abed will also present his findings on 21 Feb, at the beginning of the high-level workshop in Cairo.

Hackathons and Data-Rich Communication

One of the significant activities during this exciting week is the annual Egypt Big Data Hackathon. Organised by the ITI in partnership with the IDRC, UNDP, ILO and TERADATA, the hackathon camps on ITI’s previous successful editions. Throughout the two days, youth will explore data provided by various ministries aiming for innovative prototype solutions. These revolve around enhancing the quality of life and services and driving new applications and business opportunities. Three domains of activities focus more precisely: water supply services, public transportation, and remote sensing and climate forecasts. All the details and agenda are available at the ITI.

We mentioned it when announcing our new partnership with InfoTimes last week, but a reminder never hurts. On 20 and 23 Feb, two dedicated training sessions will take place within the framework of the workshop. Those sessions focus on data journalism for students and professionals. Thus:

How Not to Miss out Any Detail

The official website,, is up and running (and so sleek!). The speakers, day-by-day programme details and various blog posts from the wider network of data enthusiasts in MENA will feature there.

For everyone on Twitter, we are using the hashtag #ddiMENA. We are also setting up a list of relevant accounts you should follow: those are colleagues, speakers, experts, etc. who will be attending the event. Follow @OpenMENA for details.

Facebook is another place where to look for updates. The most straightforward places to check out are IDRC’s Facebook page and our own Open MENA Facebook page.

Posted on: February 16, 2016, by :