Transforming public documents in Argentina collaboratively

Open data in Argentina is still an emerging trend. Nevertheless, there have been some key initiatives in this area for a while now.

One of these is La Nación Data, an open data and data journalism project from Argentina’s second largest media group by circulation (La Nacion). The aim of La Nación Data, which also features a blog and an open data catalogue, is to track the use and growth of digital technologies and data initiatives, and to present and share research and data in open formats for citizens to easily access and reuse.

The practice of using databases for research in journalism is well established, but new technologies offer the means to analyze and interact with data in a far more accessible and collaborative manner.

In early March La Nación Data launched VozData, a collaborative platform that allows users to transform public documents from PDFs into a reader-friendly structured database.

In late March we (CIPPEC) were invited to join the pre-launch of VozData’s first project. This seeks to examine and classify over 6,500 Senate expenses claims, from 2010 to 2012.

The platform allows any citizen with an account on Facebook, Google+ or with La Nacion to participate in the creation and classification of structured data on public spending, in illustrative and easily understood formats. The newly created material is published on the website in real time, with rankings by recipient and type of expense.

Initiatives like this are really important in Argentina, since there is still a culture of secrecy in the public sector and there is a weak legal apparatus for ensuring access to public information. Citizen participation is key to driving cultural change towards a more transparent, accountable and collaborative society.

The best part of VozData is that it is easy to use - and almost as addictive as candy crush! - with the added plus that you are helping to free up public information.

On the 25 May 2014 all 6,657 documents were released. Check the results of the Senate's expenditure at VozData. Follow the La Nacion team via @LNdata to find out the next edition and join to free a PDF