Chevening scholar shortlisted for internationally renowned Data Journalism Award

Amr Sobhy is recognised for his innovative work in visualising the Egyptian budget

Amr Sobhy

An MSc Public Policy and Management student was shortlisted for an international journalism award in recognition of his innovative work in opening and visualising the Egyptian government’s budget.

Amr Sobhy (pictured) was shortlisted in the Open Data category of the Data Journalism Awards – the Global Editors Network’s flagship annual awards ceremony which recognise outstanding work in the field of data journalism. On 16 June, Amr flew to Vienna to attend the ceremony and gala.

The Egyptian student, who is currently studying at Birkbeck on a Chevening scholarship, was shortlisted for his work on developing Mwazna, an online application which visualises the Egyptian state government’s budget in a way that is easily accessible and understandable to the public. 

Launched in April 2015, Mwazna was developed in part to address what Amr and his colleague Tarek perceived to be a fundamental lack of understanding of the economic situation for the average citizen and lack of open data about the budget.

The duo took a 161-page-long financial statement released by the Egyptian government and turned it into a simple, easy to understand and interactive online experience. In creating the open platform which showcases and visualises complicated data such as financial information in the form of interactive maps and infographics, they aimed to empower two different segments of society – the average citizen and open data advocates and researchers.

Reception to Mwazna has been very positive, even being welcomes by the Egyptian government. Officials from the Ministry of Finance have called for potential cooperation on future visualization of budgets and on more efforts on the citizen education front. Looking forward, Amr and Tarek hope to create an open-source tool to democratize access for easy-to-create budget visualization tools.

Regarding being shortlisted for the Data Journalism Award (DJA), Amr, 27, said: “The DJA 2016 competition received 471 projects from over 50 countries, representing the five continents. To be amongst the best 63 projects all in all and best six projects in open data is a great thrill.

“Also to compete with such well-established organisations in the same category as the French newspaper ‘Le monde’, Argentinan newspaper ‘La Nacion’ or the UK Trinity Mirror makes it even much more exciting.”

Speaking of the awards ceremony on 16 June in Vienna City Hall, Amr added: “It felt like the Oscars but for journalism. It was also a great networking opportunity to meet all those helping to shape the future of data in journalism.”

Amr is currently finishing his Master’s in Public Policy and Management at Birkbeck. His dissertation focuses on a similar topic – on how technology and online advocacy tools impacts good governance.

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