“The Uruguay is not a river” – Open Data Day Rio Uruguay builds a new community

This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2017. On Saturday 4 March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 44 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by SPARC, the Open Contracting Program of Hivos, Article 19, Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. This event was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the open data for environment theme.

This blog was originally written in Spanish and was translated by Mor Rubinstein and Oscar Montiel.

The Singer-songwriter, Anibal Sampayo,described the Uruguay River in a unique way:  “El Uruguay no es un río: es un cielo azul que viaja”. Meaning, The Uruguay is not a river: It is blue sky that travels. Born in the coastal town of Paysandú, Sampayo knew how to summarise in this song the importance of this watercourse that links three countries: Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

Hundreds of years of history have passed through this watercourse. These three nations raised and got independence from the Spanish and Portuguese empires, they had lived together through periods of encounters and calm. In the last decades, social-political problems affected the relations between Argentina and Uruguay, and now slowly this relationship is building up. At the same time, the residents of the coastal zones are witnessing the effects of huge floods, a product of climate change.

With the aim to support the affected population, the data journalism organisations of  Subsidios Claros in Uruguay and Datos Concepción in Argentina have created a joint task force to help this issue.

We chose to join the global call for Open Data Day event that happened on the 4th of March, and we created the binational event: The Uruguay river open data day. The activity took place in the city of  Paysandú since its location is easy to access from both Argentina and Uruguay.

The primary objective for the day was that institutions, experts, and activists of the area could create an interactive map of the activities that are connected to the river

As a key point, we tackled the problem of the massive floods in the cities of  Paysandú and Salto in Uruguay and the cities Concordia, Concepción, San José and Colón in the region of Entre Ríos in Argentina

There were two tasks for the day. The first task was to produce an alarm system for the cities mentioned above by using an open data dataset of climate effects. As a second task, we tried to analyse the different environmental, economic and demographic impact of this area.

We were honoured by the presence of government officials from the municipalities of Concepción, San José, and Paysandú, together with journalists, graphic designers, programmers and citizens who are interested in the topic. With the exception of one government member, the participants did not have prior knowledge about the significance or use of open data. The peak point of our work was that those who were affected by the floods were actively participating, and they saw how technology with civic purpose can help to find solutions for their problems.

People of different ages, genders, profiles, cities and interests met and created teams and proposals in less than 8 hours of the hackathon. In the end, symbolic prizes were given – jams that were produced by local women from the region.

The event was successful, and people created follow-up actions. Now are expecting to have a second meeting for the community. This session will be defined in the near future.

The future

This event created a network of people and organisations that are linked by the theme. The founders of this initiative, Adrian Pino (Datos Concepción) and Maximiliano Debenedetti (Subsidios Claros), coordinate the work of a bi-national team that will ensure the continuity of the project.

The project achieved some partnerships that will give sustainability to the project:  The municipalities of Paysandú and Concepción, a company from the region – Río Uruguay Seguros, the agency for development of Paysandú, the agency for digital government in Uruguay (AGESIC) and the future participation of the binational organisation CARU

From this activity, three projects that will work simultaneously were brought to life. All created by the attendees and presented as the result of a day of work.

At the same time, because of the media attention (we got several notes of journalists from both countries) and dissemination on government websites about these subjects, a large number of public and private institutions are interested in what we can achieve. They have sent us their support and communicated with the organisers.

All in all, we can assert that the activity on of March 4th is the kickstart of a proposal to research, to work together and integrate. We wish that this work will follow the blue sky that travels and it will arrive at the to success.

Coexistence of mate! On the left: Mate from Uruguay, on the Right: Mate from Argentina

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