Case study ● Matchbox

Institute for Public Policy Research

We worked with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in Namibia to improve their data analysis and investigative skills and develop a platform to turn petroleum exploration data into usable information: Transparent Oil Namibia (namibia.transparentoil.org).

The organisation is now ready to take their findings to the next level, designing reform proposals that flag corruption risks in the extractives sector.

Mapping the companies behind petroleum exploration in Namibia

Namibia has been a relative latecomer to the oil boom in Africa. Although the country is often associated with strong resource sector-governance, a politically connected financial elite is siphoning off revenues and contributing to extreme poverty.

IPPR wanted to map trends in how petroleum exploration licenses were allocated to open up the system. We supported them to identify, structure and digitise data about trends in the sector, as well as systematising the way they manage the collected information. We also connected them with experts who helped to build a platform that collated and displayed licensing data and corporate information, in a format that IPPR can use in their advocacy.

How can data lead to reform?

Identifying the data to be collected, creating a relational data model and developing the database structure

Using web scrapers for data collection.

Page designs and front-end development.

Developing advocacy strategies and investigative reporting.

IPPR wanted to analyse patterns of license ownership and transactions, and create a red-flagging mechanism for investigative journalists and law enforcement agencies. They aimed to show how companies get initial rights to a concession because of their owners’ political connections and then resell them at a higher price, increasing the risk of fraud and waste.

IPPR and the Matchbox team started by identifying the data to be collected. We created a spreadsheet for structuring the information, using a series of interrelated worksheets that form the basis for what we hope will become a standard data model for petroleum-related data. The development of the data model was an interactive exercise that involved multiple experts. After consultating experts in this area, we created a new relational data model to capture the complexity of the data.

We worked with user experience (UX) expert Julie Lorch to create the visual plans for the web pages. Creating the front-end designs for the user interface was an interactive process that involved many rounds of feedback from IPPR and industry experts. Toby Marsden, founder of Databasify, then created a database for IPPR to host the information, and Friedrich Lindenberg developed data scrapers for the the license ownership and allocation tables. The data is now automatically updated on a monthly basis from the Namibian flexicadastre map.

The IPPR team manually collected data on company ownership structures and hierarchies from the Namibian registry of companies, while the Matchbox team used cross-border investigative resources to collect information on international companies. In the final phase of the platform development, Women Hack For Non-Profits worked on the front-end development. Don Hubert provided sectoral expertise throughout the whole process.

We’re currently working with IPPR to develop policy recommendations for better disclosure norms around both licensing and company registry information, based on international best practices and standards.

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