CIMA Releases Publication on Data Journalism for Media Development


The Washington-based Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) has released a new publication titled “Understanding Data: Can News media Rise to the Challenge”, which examines the implications of the rise of data journalism for Media Development.

The publication, written by Tara Susman-Peña, a senior research officer for the Internews Center for Innovation and Learning, notes that “Worldwide, data in digital form is being produced at a dizzying pace, not only by governments, academic institutions, and private enterprises gathering it for their own uses but also as a by-product of millions of routine interactions on computers, cellphones, GPS devices, and other digital tools.” It also observes that “Data is rapidly exploding in quantities far vaster than the capacity of civil society, commercial entities, and individual citizens to make sense of it.”

In the author’s view, the situation presents an opportunity for news media to play an important role in helping to analyze and digest all this information through the practice of data journalism, also referred to as “computer-assisted reporting”, “data-driven journalism” or “precision journalism.” The author argues that it also presents an opportunity for the media development sector to have a notable impact on human development by equipping journalists and media institutions with the ability to make sense of data for citizens.

In its analysis on digital tools, the publication explains that “new technology has produced an abundance of new data; digital technology has produced better, easier tools to work with data. The open source movement, which functions by sharing and collaboration, has been a driving factor in increasing access and simplification of digital tools. The existence of simpler tools means that it is easier to do sophisticated analysis without having to understand as much technical detail on the programming end about how the Web-based tools function.”

From Susman-Peña’s perspective the expansion of digital data has provided a good opportunity to improve evidence-based governance and to increase citizen participation in decision making. She warned though that without the media making sense of this growing mountain of data, the promise of the transparency revolution is likely to be lost.

“The specter of all of the other well-known challenges to practicing journalism–censorship, attacks on journalists, criminal libel laws, and collapsing business models–is a reminder that in the absence of a stable, enabling, and supporting environment, data journalism is likely to remain an unfulfilled promise”, she said and recommended that journalist should be trained and provided with the latest digital tools.

The full report is available at: