I was recently asked to explain how reKnowledge could have helped a journalist investigation such as the Panama papers. I thought I'd write a post about it because it is such a great illustration of reKnowledge's potential.
It took the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) 400 journalists and a year of work to analyse and make sense of the huge amount of data and information they had at hand.
While the team developed some rudimentary and bespoke tools to help the journalists navigate their 2.6 TB of data, the solutions only helped identify contents and documents rather than knowledge per se.
In addition, to paint a fuller picture, journalists continued to rely on open-source research and human intelligence to further enhance their institutional knowledge. While the latter process ran in parallel, the information and knowledge gathered through it was not consolidated systematically. Instead, each journalist would make notes of the information of interest in their own way (word, excel, Evernote, etc.).
Worse still, when it came to analysing all this information, journalists had to use whiteboards to draw investigative maps. The knowledge they produced remained desperately analogue and its delivery through written articles was at best, basic.
With reKnowledge, such a research project would take less time and resource and lead to a much more reliable and interactive output.
While our initial data injector comes in the form of a web-browser add-on, we will develop a whole suite of connectors to allow users to integrate their own data into reKnowledge. From Database connectors to PDF readers, word document add-ons to open-source API connectors we will have an extensive list of features.
As they delved into documents, ICIJ journalists identified individuals and organisations of interests. reKnowledge enhanced journalists can create connections between entities directly from the document they are reading. In effect, they can build semi-structured datasets while doing their research. without the need to manually copy/paste anything or reference the data source. All of this is taken care of by the software.
reKnowledge doesn't just massively reduce the time it takes to gather and consolidate information, the real added-value comes with the analytical workbench.
Gone are the days, when researchers would have to consolidate their knowledge in notes or basic spreadsheets before making sense of all of it in their head (or on a whiteboard) and producing a written report outlining their findings.
With our analytical workbench, analysts can navigate and investigate their knowledge on a digital board in a faster and more efficient way. In addition, they can create graphs and charts to visualise and present their analysis (helping them better identify trends in the process) with ease directly from the data and information contained in the knowledge base. While the initial analytical workbench supports network analysis, we will soon enhance the analytical capabilities to include flow analysis (for financial transaction analysis) geospatial analysis and timeline analysis as well as all the usual graphics and charts.
Data visualisation would have been particularly useful for the ICIJ investigation because of the complexity of the issue at hand, both to help the researchers find critical insights and to communicate their findings to the widest audience.
But this is only the beginning of data-driven analytics. With reKnowledge, our clients will be able to create interactive data analytics dashboards allowing their clients to conduct their own inquiries by selecting the parameters that matter to them.
The Panama Papers investigation was a landmark moment for the journalist community and an indication of things to come. Increasingly investigative journalism will be data-driven, but journalists are ill-equipped to face this challenge, that is until reKnowledge.