Above: At the Open Gov Hub in Washington, D.C. Photo by Ethel Méndez Castillo.

This year has been really eye opening to me and I am sure the same holds true for many others. I started to realize that “fake news” and “alternative truths” are pervasive, particularly on the Internet, and this has made me more skeptical of what I see on my Facebook feed. But how do we find more truth in the information we consume? My unexpected summer internship just helped me to start answering that question to myself: we collect good data that we then understand and share openly.

My plans for the summer were not necessarily to work at an international organization that “creates open source, internet and mobile software and sensors” in order to make “international development and country governance more effective, transparent and collaborative.” I’d had no plans to come to Washington, D.C. and I had never heard of Akvo Foundation or the Open Gov Hub. I just knew about all the poor decisions and ineffective results achieved by governments and organizations around the world caused by the lack of access to good and real information. Honestly, I had never really thought about ways in which people could be working to improve the data used in decision-making and measuring results. However, one week changed all of this, and I had to move to DC for a summer internship at Akvo Foundation USA. It was through this internship that I found out that some people are working to integrate technology into the monitoring of development processes.

The main project I had during my internship was to research and reach out to potential partners in different Latin American countries. Through my research, I found several governmental and non-governmental organizations that are doing great things, but seemed to lack technology to collect good data that would allow them to make better decisions and achieve better results. I started to reach out to these organizations and I was a little nervous about them paying attention to my communication. Surprisingly, several of them reached back to us with great interest in Akvo’s products and services. It seems organizations that work in the international development sector are also getting tired of working based on information that does not always reflect reality. They are also pursuing ways in which the information they use to make decisions is more reliable and trustworthy.

It was hopeful to find organizations around Latin America that are trying to collect good quality data and it was hopeful to work at an organization that really cares about helping people collect and share information that reflects reality. I look forward to a future in which technology allows us to capture exact data about relevant stuff and a future in which data is shared and equally available to all people. I look forward to a future in which more people are able to visualize and understand data that affects them.

I am glad that during the last months I did not only open my eyes to “fake news”, but I also had the opportunity to learn about the progress in technology and services that will help overcome it.

Thanks Akvo for a great summer!

Edgar Aguilar just completed a summer internship with Akvo Foundation USA. He is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Economics at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.