Advancing in consolidating an open data community and practitioners in South America

The case of ARTIGO 19 in Brazil and Datalat in Ecuador

Authors: Paulina Bustos (Artigo 19) and Julio López (Datalat)

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 events in this blog were supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open Science and Equal Development themes.

After almost 5 years of working in the open data movement, it feels like we have come to a crossroads. We are now wondering if we should continue working on creating more generalistic open data or if we need to start opening with specific topics in mind. The reality is that we need to pursue doing both. A very good example of these two approaches are the Open Data Day events that happened in São Paulo and Quito this year. Here we narrate both events highlighting our learnings and outcomes.  

Dados e Feminicídios (Data and Femicides)

Femicides is a great problem in Latin America and in Brazil the numbers are worrisome. According to a study made in 2015, Brazil occupies the 5th place in the world with the highest index of femicides in the world. Because of this, we decided to work on open data from a Femicides perspective. To present our work and kick-off a collaboration with publishers and users of data relating to femicides we choose the Open Data Day.

The event took part in MobiLab, a Mobility Lab in São Paulo. We set up the objective of the event as to improve the quantity and quality of data related to femicides in Brazil. The event was a private one that united people from the government, civil society and journalists working on the topic in Brazil. We had two main activities: Present our research on data and femicides (the event included people who were included in the research) and the second activity was an exercise to understand the barriers and problem with the usage and consumption of this data. As our next steps, we will work with these institutions to improve the quantity and quality of open data related to femicides.

Open Data Day Quito

Working towards consolidating an active community interested in open data was the goal for this year in Quito. Datalat and Medialab have been organising together this event for 3 years, which usually includes workshops, talks and mainly serve as a networking space for the community. This year, around 130 people got together at CIESPAL to celebrate open data. This blog post details what happened that day (in Spanish).

An opening panel set the tone for the event, which included speeches from the national institute of statistics and local experts, including for the first time data-driven journalists. Our main insights is that Open Data had a momentum in government in 2015, with many directives and regulations being implemented; however, it slowly vanished. In order to reach out that momentum again, it is necessary to promote and educate more about the benefits of the use of open data and above all to incentivize people to participate more in this public debate.

On the skills side, during the event 4 workshops were run by local organisations on their fields of expertise including data mapping, open budgets, SDGs and open research data. About this last topic, Datalat has advanced in creating a local chapter to organise the first OpenCon in Ecuador, which later this year will gather academics and professionals interested in open access, open data and open education. A survey is available in Spanish for those who wish to join this effort.

Insights and outcomes

In the last couple of years we have worked with the idea of improving open data in general, but with this project and event we have realized the importance of creating an open data movement that works in parallel with thematic projects and research. Thematic  events allow us to involve a greater range of people that can make a difference for open data.

Education is a huge part of an effective open data movement. We think we will not be able to advance towards an effective use of open data in our region if we do not start education a greater range of people from diverse sectors. We all can do our part to build an open data ecosystem in our communities. With this message, Datalat invites everyone to joint efforts and work collaboratively to have a stronger and diverse open data movement. What started as an effort of 5 people in Quito, has turned into a 28 organisation’s effort to have a local event to visibilize open data in the public agenda.

As we move forward to Open Data in Latin America we will be working in advancing specific topics and general practices, always with education in mind.