Lava Jato Hackathon: Journalists and developers creating algorithms and web apps to fight corruption

This blog has been translated from the Spanish blog report at Convoca

This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2018. On Saturday 3 March, groups from around the world organised over 400 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The event in this blog was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Follow the Money theme.

We organised in Peru the first hackathon to develop apps to fight corruption. Using open data about public works and people involved in the “Lava Jato” case (Operation Car Wash) we gathered journalists, developers, different professionals and young students to work together on innovative proposals through more than 18 hours.

Four years after the investigation of this biggest corruption scandal in Latin America started in Brazil, Convoca organized the “Hackathon Lava Jato”, on March 16 and 17 celebrating Open Data Day. This event brought together anti-corruption experts with young professionals. To do this, we made open data available about Odebrecht contracts and their increased costs. We gathered contracts through Freedom of Information requests (FOI), information of official websites and own sources, built together with the 20 Latin American and African journalists of the “Investiga Lava Jato” project.

Avelino Guillén, the former prosecutor of the most important corruption cases in the country, including the former president Alberto Fujimori’s, and Vanessa Zorrilla, an expert lawyer in public procurement presented to about 70 participants. Guillén talked to them about the judiciary system to tackle corruption and its weakness to fight it, as well as the sophisticated strategies used to hide ill-gotten gains.

Zorrilla highlighted the importance of transparency in the public procurement process and invited the youth to request information about contracts and transactions when public money is involved, and use the FOI and Transparency laws.

Journalists, web developers, designers, lawyers; and academics created new tools to access information about the Lava Jato case.

The criteria to select the winning projects were: project impact and viability; meeting goals of the event; innovation and creativity, as well as how developed the project was. The jury was formed by experts in the different topics: Avelino Guillén, former state prosecutor; Irina Ávilna the founding director of MakerLAB; Milagros Salazar, journalist and director of Convoca.pe; and Elvis Rivera, the developer and lead of Convoca Lab.

Based on these criteria we got three winners:

  1. Face to Face”, a project developed by David Chapuis, Luis Castillo, José Osnar, Randy Ortiz and Joseph Patiño. A detector of gesture patterns that analyzes potential corrupt characters through and algorithm. People can also access public interest information like their bios, court processes and others. This project seeks to prevent cases like Lava Jato in Peru.  
  2. ‘Lava Jabot’, built by Jean Pierre Tincopa, Dulce Alarcon and Jorge Tuanama. This team built a bot using AI. They seek to use its preset responses to bring people closer to the information about contracts, public works and people involved in Lava Jato. They decided to show simple and interactive information to their users. Through Facebook Messenger, people can access infographics, audios (of the depositions), or geolocated information about the closest Odebrecht works and how big their cost overrun was.
  3. Sin Justicia” (Without Justice), developed by Luis Enrique Pérez, Luis Vertiz, Yesenia Chavarry, Edson Torres and Rocío Arteaga seeks to emphasize the consequences and inequalities caused by corruption. Their web app shows the amount and law office defending corrupt politicians paid with public money. This is compared with the public funds used to defend other citizens. It also compares the amount spent in defending public officials with the cost of improvements in the country.

Beside these projects, we had honorable mentions of two initiatives that seek to bring attention to corruption through comics, infographics and illustrations. The website “Jóvenes en acción” (Youth in action” built by Carolina Cortez López, Daniel Pumayauli, Tania Angulo, Rosio Ramos, Abel Salazar, and ‘Divina Aceitada’, a project developed by Patrick Valentín, Joel Romero, Rolly Rodríguez, Rodolfo Carrillo and Fernando Tincopa.

This hackathon showed that there is great interest from the youth to fight corruption. Also, the projects they developed are an example of creativity and symbiosis of journalism with technology to benefit people.

We spread the word about the results through social media and in the different open data, journalism and technology communities. Convoca published these achievements in its digital medium and interviewed the winners in the radio program “Café Convoca”. The next step is to keep supporting these initiatives that contribute significantly to transparency and accountability.

The Lava Jato Hackathon was run with support from Hivos and Open Knowledge International as part of the “Investiga Lava Jato” initiative, the Centro de Innovación y Desarrollo Emprendedor de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) and Lab San Isidro.