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Brian Spurling
28 Jul 2017

New Outlandish tools for Papua New Guinea anti-corruption activists

In the last few weeks we have launched three tools which are being used by anti-corruption campaigners in Papua New Guinea.

This is important stuff. Not only is Papua New Guinea widely perceived to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world, it is also holding a general election this summer – one that makes our political choices in the UK seem almost trivial in comparison! (Read the recent Economist article for a quick overview.)

Here at Outlandish we feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to work on these tools.

PNGi Central – a platform for investigative journalism and anti-corruption research

PNGi Central is a journalism-cum-academia-cum-blogging news site which we built  in Kasia, our very own React Redux toolset for the WordPress API.

It gives our client a platform for their pioneering research into anti-corruption in Papua New Guinea, allowing them to combine easy-to-read narratives with the sort of detailed content that researchers and journalists look for.

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PNGi Portal – cross-referencing official reports with corporate ownership data

PNGi Portal is a ground-breaking new tool that takes previously-inaccessible reports and rulings from courts and official bodies in Papua New Guinea, and cross references them with corporate ownership data. To the casual observer, this is a standard WordPress site, but behind the scenes there’s some cool stuff going on…

“The level of skill and improvisation you’ve brought to the project has been incredible”

— The client

Firstly, the text is scraped from the PDF reports and converted into a searchable and indexable format. Lambda functions and Elasticsearch were used to achieve this.

Then, we scraped Papua New Guinea’s public website of corporate ownership data (using Selenium – kudos to Global Witness who built the first version of this scraper) and built a social network model in PostgreSQL.

Finally, the two were cross referenced: the names which are mentioned in the reports, their connections, where those connections are mentioned in the reports, and so on…

Our clients point out that inclusion in the data doesn’t, of itself, mean there has been anything improper or illegal, but it is an important new resource for those trying to understand what the connections mean.

“The new PNGi Portal is just AMAZING! – both in what it does and how it presents the information. It is groundbreaking and deserves an AWARD!”

We are delighted with the results so far and can’t wait to take it further.

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PNGi Analytics – network graph analytics for anti-corruption researchers

PNGi Analytics is a self-service, social network analytics tool for the anti-corruption research team. We have taken our social network model and built in some additional metrics (using R), then made a simple user interface with PHP.

“I love it when crazy ideas (but excellent ones), nay-sayers say can’t be done, get done, with panache. This is a perfect example!”

Next: taking anti-corruption research tools global

Did you notice the mention of Bougainville’s 2019 independence referendum at the bottom of the Economist article? We have a project about to kick-off to help tell the true history of Bougainville, free from the colonial distortions.

We are also looking for funding to roll out some of these pioneering anti-corruption research techniques and digital tools globally, not to mention thinking about where we take them next for Papua New Guinea researchers.

And PNGi Portal is already turning heads in the London tech scene as two Outlanders get involved with Global Witness and DataKind, on a six month data science project with the UK’s Companies House data.

But more importantly than our never-ending quest to build more awesome tech, in the words of our client’s PNGi research team…

“Now to utilise these brilliant tools to lob some investigative grenades!”

Related Projects

PNGi Central

We were approached by a (must-remain-anonymous) research organisation that produces evidence and insights for the anti-corruption fight in Papua New Guinea. They wanted help generating “a big public conversation” that would inspire action from the various criminal justice agencies across Papua New Guinea and Australia.