There were two reasons I wanted to write about software used by international aid organisations. The first reason was that there were lots of great projects to write about. Where commercial mappers failed, Missing Maps volunteers using OpenStreetMap and aerial images had 23,500 square kilometres of the Democratic Republic of the Congo hit by Ebola mapped in a fortnight, helping Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to tackle the outbreak.
The second reason was that aid organisations need technology that works in all environments. Among other things, this often means avoiding cloud computing. MSF physically flew its new maps to the Congo, first on paper then on a small server, to save bandwidth to its facilities there. Those with staff working mainly in the field, such as Oxfam and World Vision, make sure their software works offline. It demonstrates why cloud is not the answer everywhere, even if mobile coverage in Britain are usually better than in central Africa. Continue reading “Aid organisations dodge cloud for technology that works”
A new version of my e-book Britdata is available here (£9.99) and on Leanpub (US$11.99 plus VAT). I have updated it with the recently-released population estimates from the Office for National Statistics, as well as information on how GDPR affects subject access requests.
Whether on Leanpub or direct, buyers automatically get updated versions when they come out – I have just sent this new edition to those who had already purchased it – and it comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee. To give you an idea, you can read the introduction here and the list of contents here.
I recently worked with Jack Malvern at The Times on a news story on ketogenic diet apps that claim to help treat cancer (subscription required).
A ketogenic diet, which is very low in carbohydrates, can be used under medical supervision to treat children with epilepsy. But Cancer Research UK says there is no evidence it is effective in reducing the risk of people getting cancer or increasing survival rates. Continue reading “Cancer diets and tech giants: having cake and eating it”
If I have a data journalism specialist subject, it is Britain. Writing about its public sector means finding out how to extract information on it through Freedom of Information, parliamentary written answers and open data on spending; knowing how to use official published data on Britain’s localities; and understanding the often-messy structure of local public services including councils, police, fire and NHS organisations.
I have just published a new e-book, Britdata: Finding data on the UK for journalists, researchers and campaigners, covering these areas and others, including tips on dealing with data and specific information on all of the UK’s top-tier local authority areas. A PDF of the introduction is here with more information here.
Continue reading “My new data journalism e-book, Britdata”
Buying Christmas presents is always difficult. Tim Harford had some great advice in the Financial Times – his best tip was to “adopt a passive gift-buyer strategy”, by giving something you know the recipients can use, such as hard cash, along with time and attention.
There is another kind of Christmas giving where it makes sense to combine hard cash, time and attention: charitable donations. I wrote a piece for the Guardian in 2013 about charity evaluators and two British charities that they rated very highly, Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI). Continue reading “How to give well this Christmas: donate to super-efficient charities”