Lao civil society improves advocacy with data visualization

Chantha Ouanthavongsi, director of the Association for Preservation of Environment and Development of Community, immediately applied his new data skills at work. 

“I was able to organize a workshop for my staff to integrate tools such as Mapeo into our projects because of the digital literacy training,” says Chantha. Mapeo is an offline map editing application for indigenous territory mapping in remote environments. 

“Data tools such as Mapeo and Piktochart will revolutionize how my organization will collect and share data with stakeholders, donors and the public,” says Ouanthavongsi. “The skills I learned and these tools will democratize the use of data to help local communities.”

Khunkham Sayalard, co-founder of Xieng Khouang Foundation, shares the different challenges faced by civil society in Lao PDR to build data visualizations.

The East-West Management Institute (EWMI) adapted the World Bank’s Data Literacy Certificate Program for civil society organizations operating in Lao PDR. EWMI gave the data literacy training from January to March 2021, with the financial support of the European Union through the Voices for Mekong Forests project. EWMI earlier provided this training in Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam in 2020. 

Simone Vilayphone, program officer at Community Association for Knowledge in Development, presents her final project on village participatory forest management in Khok Luang Village, Houayxai District, Bokeo Province.

Komseng Siphavanh, head of inspection unit for the Mae-ying Houm Chai Pattana Association, shares his experiences in the classroom on how new data sources can help their project.

Komseng Siphavanh, head of inspection unit for the Mae-ying Houm Chai Pattana Association, explored new data tools taught in the training. The tools can support his project to help ethnic women in Huayxai District, Bokeo Province, generate income by making brooms to sell. 

 “I am inspired by how spreadsheets can draw pictures and represent facts,” says Komseng. “For example, Piktochart helps me to compare and analyze the potential demand of the market and the supply of the broom production of the women in the community.” 

 Similarly, Phousavanh Thongpaseuth, Deputy Director of Rural Research Development Promoting Knowledge Association, expressed how she integrated the data tools she learned into her work. 

“I use Juxtapose to compare and contrast pictures from previous years to demonstrate forest loss, raise public awareness and help policymakers make decisions to improve forest governance,” says Phousavanh.  

Phousavanh Thongpaseuth, Deputy Director of Rural Research Development Promoting Knowledge Association, shares her views on data visualizations during a group exercise.

Khampheng Pongkham, Program Officer at Lao Biodiversity Association, shared how eye-opening it was to learn about data security issues in the training. 

“I never realized the danger digital security has on our daily life,” says Khampheng. “It’s important as we use more data in our work that we also increase our digital security to protect ourselves and the communities we work with.”

The training helped to improve the data analysis, digital security and visual storytelling of civil society members who are working to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Armed with their new data skills and tools, the civil society members can better advocate for their issues, from climate change, forest governance to education.

Participants and the instructor celebrate the end of the data literacy training in Vientiane, Lao PDR

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EWMI supports the works of the Open Development Initiative (ODI) in open data across the Mekong region with the aim for equal access to opportunities to build the skills on Data Literacy for all people particularly women and marginalised groups in the region. EWMI and Recoftc share common objectives in straightening the abilities and knowledge in digital technology among civil society groups and realizing the capacity building in the grassroots communities.

This story is produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its content is the sole responsibility of the Open Development Initiative and it does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. To find out more about this and other activities under the EU-funded Voices for Mekong Forests, visit the project page

Story by Aphilom Vanthanouvong, National Coordinator for East-West Management Institute (EWMI) with the support from editors and communication teams. 

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