You are browsing the archive for El Salvador.

Open data and research: Let’s get to it!

- June 1, 2018 in El Salvador, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, open research data

This blog has been translated from the original post at https://sv.okfn.org/2018/03/23/datos-abiertos-e-investigacion-manos-a-la-obra 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 Open Research Data theme. Every year we celebrate opening, promoting using, reusing, disseminating and creating value from open data. This is a simple action that has a great impact for knowledge generation and opportunities for economic, social and cultural development in countries. Since 2014, in DatosElSalvador we have promoted open data with the vision of contributing to more people and organizations benefiting from open data to generate commercial, social and cultural opportunities. In 2015 we worked with the Transparency Consortium to celebrate Open Data Day for transparency. In 2016, along with the comptroller agencies we hosted Open Data Day to tackle corruption, again with the support of the Consortium. In 2017 we promoted open data for entrepreneurship. This year, DatosElSalvador, The Next Services and Hub170 joined together to celebrate Open Data Day in el Salvador, with the support of Open Knowledge Interntional we built a unique space to share and experiment with open data and its benefits for research and analysis. Along with university researchers and civil society organisations, we had a morning full of knowledge and experiences around open research data, definition of roadmaps and technical knowledge to open data and make them available for everyone. We learned about visualization tools, information processing, Creative Commons licensing and especially: opening data! During the day, we learned about examples of open research data and open academic data, we went through examples of data reuse and learned practically how to open them and visualize them. Every since we started with DatosElSalvador we have tried to use Open Data Day to empower a sector of society with 3 key goals:
  1. More people and organisations opening data! We anxiously wait for the day when strategic sectors of the country’s social, economic and cultural sectors of the country open, reuse and share data to generate a rich, certain, evidence-based and constant knowledge.
  2. More open data! While in DatosElSalvador we work to open data through our portal, we love receiving and spread data from more people and organisations. That’s why when we make data available during Open Data Day we had the goal of feeding the portal and explaining participants how they can use the data available.
  3. More tools to open data! We love it when people talk about open data, but we love even more when they put them to use and learn about tools to use them. That’s wy during the activity we went through different tools and learned to use them.
“Data based research generates more concrete evidence for decision-making” was our motto for Open Data Day in El Salvador. Along with three universities we opened data about economy, education, elections and research, and we organized a panel about the challenges of academic and scientific research and open data. DatosElSalvador is the only open data portal in El Salvador, and we are committed to continue opening data for a community that generates value through their research work. This event allowed us to identify the new challenges we face as promoters of open data in the country. On one hand we need to foster more meetings to learn about tools and techniques for opening data, as well as good practices for reuse. On the other, we need to encourage data based research by having incentives and/or recommendations for public policies or the generation of more business models. When we defined the topic for this Open Data Day event, we did this with building a baseline in the community on how to create and grow capacities and use the collective inteligence to continue this valuable process of generating knowledge with universities. We had some strategic allies. Each year we find a topic, community and allies that get together to generate valuable events that allow participants to learn things, not just to know them. The Next Services shared and assessed on techonologies to open and visualise data, and the Hub170 taught us about creative thought and soft skills necessary to build work teams that can do research and create value. We can’t wait to have a new Open Data Day. In the meantime we renovate our commitment to make of open something valuable!

Follow the Money in Uruguay, Argentina and El Salvador

- May 7, 2018 in argentina, El Salvador, Follow the Money, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, uruguay

This blog has been written by Maximiliano Benedetti (Demos) and CoST El Salvador 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 Follow the Money theme.

Uruguay & Argentina: Río Abierto

For the second year in a row, we celebrated Open Data Day in Río Uruguay. It took place on 3 March 2018 in the city of Paysandú. In this occasion the activity focused on the economical problems that floodings bring, tracking the public funds used to alleviate the damages these natural phenomenons cause. Argentina and Uruguay are borderlining countries divided by two important natural barriers: the River Plate and the Uruguay River. We focused on the Uruguay River given that in recent years floodings have increasingly affected the population in the coast cities and rural areas. Because of these catastrophes, governments must respond immediately. They need to not only recover production, commerce and tourism in such zones, but also rebuild the basic rights that are affected. The event was hosted by three organisations that work with data: Datos Concepción from Argentina; Demos from Uruguay; and PODER with their Latin American office. We got interest from the Council of Concepción del Uruguay, the support of Radio Franca and the presence of the Argentinian Consulate in Uruguay, as well as the Paysandú Development Agency, who supported greatly to run the event. We also developed a website for the event, which we will update with each edition (www.datosriouruguay.org) The event was designed prioritizing the collective activity of participants. We ran a hackathon. Since we had different levels of knowledge regarding the topic, we started with an introduction to open data, why they’re important and how they can be used. Then we showed some practical examples, which were useful to launch the hackathon. Approximately 30 people were registered for this year. From the event we had two different proposals. Una was generating an “Flooding expenditure calculator” to help local governments manage these catastrophes. The second was to create an information system about the affected territories, focusing on a regional map that allows people to update the information about each zone. In an agreement with the Paysandú Development Agency, we gave the prize of incubation of the projects. In order to give continuity, we want the winning group (Flooding expenditure calculator) to have the chance to continue working on the project with the support of the organizers.

Tracking the money of contracting public infrastructure in El Salvador

On Friday, March 16, 2018, thanks to the support of Open Data Day, an event called “Track the money of infrastructure contracting in El Salvador” was held, where the following topics were discussed:
  • Importance of transparency in the construction sector
  • Importance of access to public information
  • Forms of disclosure of information by public institutions, proactive disclosure, and reactive disclosure
  • Access to Public Information Law (LAIP)
  • Overview of CoST El Salvador: what is CoST, work methodology, assurance process, indicators
The event was aimed at students and university professors, since it was considered that they can be agents of change to promote a culture based on transparency and tracking of the money of public infrastructure contracting. On this occasion the event was held in a private university in the country, however, due to the acceptance of the event, it is being negotiated with other universities to provide similar events. In addition to the presentation made, the participants were given a brochure containing information on the subject matter dealt with, in order to try to expand the information. CoST  is an initiative that seeks to increase the value of public infrastructure throughout the world, by increasing the transparency with which projects are executed, as well as encouraging citizen demand for accountability.  One of the main lines of work of CoST is the Assurance Process, which is designed to improve the usefulness of the information that public institutions disclose about infrastructure projects. This is done by means of the verification of the information based on the CoST Infrastructure Data Standard, which is made up of 79 indicators or Data Points that cover all the stages of the construction of a work.

Follow the Money in Uruguay, Argentina and El Salvador

- May 7, 2018 in argentina, El Salvador, Follow the Money, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, uruguay

This blog has been written by Maximiliano Benedetti (Demos) and CoST El Salvador 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 Follow the Money theme.

Uruguay & Argentina: Río Abierto

For the second year in a row, we celebrated Open Data Day in Río Uruguay. It took place on 3 March 2018 in the city of Paysandú. In this occasion the activity focused on the economical problems that floodings bring, tracking the public funds used to alleviate the damages these natural phenomenons cause. Argentina and Uruguay are borderlining countries divided by two important natural barriers: the River Plate and the Uruguay River. We focused on the Uruguay River given that in recent years floodings have increasingly affected the population in the coast cities and rural areas. Because of these catastrophes, governments must respond immediately. They need to not only recover production, commerce and tourism in such zones, but also rebuild the basic rights that are affected. The event was hosted by three organisations that work with data: Datos Concepción from Argentina; Demos from Uruguay; and PODER with their Latin American office. We got interest from the Council of Concepción del Uruguay, the support of Radio Franca and the presence of the Argentinian Consulate in Uruguay, as well as the Paysandú Development Agency, who supported greatly to run the event. We also developed a website for the event, which we will update with each edition (www.datosriouruguay.org) The event was designed prioritizing the collective activity of participants. We ran a hackathon. Since we had different levels of knowledge regarding the topic, we started with an introduction to open data, why they’re important and how they can be used. Then we showed some practical examples, which were useful to launch the hackathon. Approximately 30 people were registered for this year. From the event we had two different proposals. Una was generating an “Flooding expenditure calculator” to help local governments manage these catastrophes. The second was to create an information system about the affected territories, focusing on a regional map that allows people to update the information about each zone. In an agreement with the Paysandú Development Agency, we gave the prize of incubation of the projects. In order to give continuity, we want the winning group (Flooding expenditure calculator) to have the chance to continue working on the project with the support of the organizers.

Tracking the money of contracting public infrastructure in El Salvador

On Friday, March 16, 2018, thanks to the support of Open Data Day, an event called “Track the money of infrastructure contracting in El Salvador” was held, where the following topics were discussed:
  • Importance of transparency in the construction sector
  • Importance of access to public information
  • Forms of disclosure of information by public institutions, proactive disclosure, and reactive disclosure
  • Access to Public Information Law (LAIP)
  • Overview of CoST El Salvador: what is CoST, work methodology, assurance process, indicators
The event was aimed at students and university professors, since it was considered that they can be agents of change to promote a culture based on transparency and tracking of the money of public infrastructure contracting. On this occasion the event was held in a private university in the country, however, due to the acceptance of the event, it is being negotiated with other universities to provide similar events. In addition to the presentation made, the participants were given a brochure containing information on the subject matter dealt with, in order to try to expand the information. CoST  is an initiative that seeks to increase the value of public infrastructure throughout the world, by increasing the transparency with which projects are executed, as well as encouraging citizen demand for accountability.  One of the main lines of work of CoST is the Assurance Process, which is designed to improve the usefulness of the information that public institutions disclose about infrastructure projects. This is done by means of the verification of the information based on the CoST Infrastructure Data Standard, which is made up of 79 indicators or Data Points that cover all the stages of the construction of a work.

Who works with data in El Salvador?

- November 16, 2016 in Data Blog, Data Journalism, El Salvador, fellowship, Open Data

For five years, El Salvador has had the Public Information Access Law (PIAL), which requires various kinds of information from all state, municipal and public-private entities —such as statistics, contracts, agreements, plans, etc. These inputs are all managed under the tutelage of PIAL, in an accurate and timely manner. As well as the social control exerted by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in El Salvador, to ensure compliance with this law, the country’s public administration gave space for the emergence of various bodies, such as the Institute of Access to Public Information (IAPI), the Secretariat of Transparency, Anti-Corruption and Citizen Participation and the Open Government website, which compiles —without periodic revision of official documents and other resources by any government official— more than 92,000 official data documents. In this five year period, the government showed discontent. Why? They didn’t expect that this legislation would strengthen the journalistic, activist and investigative powers of civil society, who took advantage of this period of time to improve and refine the techniques under which they requested information from the public administration. Presently, there are few digital skills amongst these initiatives in the country. It has now become essential to ask the question: what is known about data in El Salvador? Are the initiatives that have emerged limited in the scope of their achievements? Can something be done to awaken or consolidate the interest of people in data? To answer these and other questions, I conducted a survey with different research and communication professionals in El Salvador and this is what I found.

The Scope

“I think [data work] has been explored very little (in journalism at least),” said Jimena Aguilar, Salvadoran journalist and researcher, who also assured me that working with data helps provide new perspectives to stories that have been written for some time. One example is Aguilar’s research for La Prensa Grafica (LPG) sections, such as transparency, legal work, social issues, amongst others. Similarly, I discovered different initiatives that are making efforts to incorporate the data pipeline within their work. For two years, the digital newspaper ElFaro.net has explored various national issues (laws, homicides, travel deputies, pensions, etc.) using data. During the same period, Latitudes Foundation processed different aspects of gender issues to determine that violence against women is a multi-causal phenomenon in the country under “Háblame de Respeto” project. And although resistance persists in government administrations and related institutions to adequately provide the information requested by civil society —deputies, think tanks, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), journalists, amongst others— more people and entities are interested in data work, performing the necessary steps to obtain information that allows them to know the level of pollution in the country, for instance, build socio-economic reports, uncover the history of Salvadoran political candidates and, more broadly, promote the examination of El Salvador’s past in order to understand the present and try to improve the country’s future.  

The Limitations

“[Perhaps,] it is having to work from scratch. A lot of carpentry work [too much work for a media outlet professional]”, says Edwin Segura, director for more than 15 years of LPG Datos, one of the main data units in the country, who also told me that often too much time and effort is lost in cleaning false, malicious data provided by different government offices, which often has incomplete or insufficient inputs. Obviously, Segura says, this is with the intention of hindering the work of those working with data in the country. In addition, there’s something very important that Jimena told me about the data work: “If you are not working as a team, it is difficult to do [data work] in a creative and attractive way.” What she said caught my attention for two reasons: first, although there are platforms that help create visualizations, such as Infogr.am and Tableau, you always need a multidisciplinary approach to jump-start a data project, which is the actual case of El Diario de Hoy data unit that is conformed by eight people specialized in data editing, web design, journalism and other related areas. And, on the other hand, although there are various national initiatives that work to obtain data, such as Fundación Nacional para el Desarrollo (FUNDE), Latitudes Foundation, etc., there’s a scattered effort to do something with the results, which means that everyone does what they can do to take forward the challenge of working with databases individually, instead of pursuing common goals between them. 

Stones in the Road

When I asked Jimena what are the negative implications of working with data, she was blunt: “(Working with data) is something that is not understood in newsrooms […] [it] takes a lot of time, something that they don’t like to give in newsrooms”. And not only newsrooms, because NGOs and various civil society initiatives are unaware of the skills needed to work with data. Of the many different internal and external factors affecting the construction of stories with data, I would highlight the following. To begin with, there is a fear and widespread ignorance towards mathematics and basic statistics, so individuals across a wide variety of sectors don’t understand data work; to them, it is a waste of time to learn how to use them in their work. For them, it’s very simple to gather data in press conferences, institutional reports and official statements, which is a mistake because they don’t see how data journalism can help them to tell stories in a different way. Another issue is that we have an inconsistency in government actions because, although the government discursively supports transparency, their actions are focused on answering requests vaguely rather than proactively releasing good quality data —opening data in this way is hampered with delays. I experienced this first hand when, on many occasions, I asked for information that didn’t match with what I requested or, on the contrary, the government officials sent me different information, in contrast with other information requests sent by other civil society sectors (journalists, researchers, etcetera).

Where Do We Go From Here?

With this context, it becomes essential to begin to make different sectors of civil society aware of the importance of data on specific issues. For that, I find myself designing a series of events with multidisciplinary teams, workshops, activities and presentations that deconstruct the fear of numbers, that currently people have, through the exchange of experience and knowledge. Only then can our civil society groups make visible the invisible and explain the why in all kinds of topics that are discussed in the country. With this approach, I believe that not only future generations of data practitioners can benefit from my activities, but also those who currently have only indirect contact with it (editors, coordinators, journalists, etc.), whose work can be enhanced by an awareness of data methodologies; for example, by encouraging situational awareness of data in the country, time-saving tools and transcendence of traditional approaches to visualization. After working for two years with gender issues and historic memory, I have realized that most data practitioners have a self-taught experience; through trainings of various kinds we can overcome internal/external challenges and, in the end, reach common goals. But, we don’t have any formal curricula and all we’ve learned so far comes from a proof and error practices… something we have to improve with time. And, also, we’re coping with the obstacles imposed by the Government on how data is requested and how the requested information is sent; we also have to constantly justify our work in workplaces where data work is not appreciated. From NGO to media outlets, data journalism is seen as a waste of time because they’re thinking that we don’t produce materials as fast as they desire; so, they don’t appreciate all the effort required to request, clean, analyse and visualise data. As part of my School of Data Fellowship, I’m supporting the design of an educational curriculum specialising in data journalism for fellow journalists in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, so they may acquire all the necessary skills and knowledge to undertake data histories on specific issues in their home countries. This is a wonderful opportunity to awaken the persistence, passion and skills for doing things with data. The outlook is challenging. But now that I’m aware of the limits, scope and stones in the way of data journalism in El Salvador and all that remains to be done, I want to move forward. I take the challenge this fellowship has presented me, because as Sandra Crucianelli (2012) would say, “(…) in this blessed profession, not only doesn’t shine people with good connections, even with brilliant minds: for this task only shine the perseverant ones. That’s the difference”. Flattr this!

Who works with data in El Salvador?

- November 16, 2016 in Data Blog, Data Journalism, El Salvador, fellowship, Open Data

For five years, El Salvador has had the Public Information Access Law (PIAL), which requires various kinds of information from all state, municipal and public-private entities —such as statistics, contracts, agreements, plans, etc. These inputs are all managed under the tutelage of PIAL, in an accurate and timely manner.

As well as the social control exerted by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in El Salvador, to ensure compliance with this law, the country’s public administration gave space for the emergence of various bodies, such as the Institute of Access to Public Information (IAPI), the Secretariat of Transparency, Anti-Corruption and Citizen Participation and the Open Government website, which compiles —without periodic revision of official documents and other resources by any government official— more than 92,000 official data documents.

In this five year period, the government showed discontent. Why? They didn’t expect that this legislation would strengthen the journalistic, activist and investigative powers of civil society, who took advantage of this period of time to improve and refine the techniques under which they requested information from the public administration.

Presently, there are few digital skills amongst these initiatives in the country. It has now become essential to ask the question: what is known about data in El Salvador? Are the initiatives that have emerged limited in the scope of their achievements? Can something be done to awaken or consolidate the interest of people in data? To answer these and other questions, I conducted a survey with different research and communication professionals in El Salvador and this is what I found.

The Scope

“I think [data work] has been explored very little (in journalism at least),” said Jimena Aguilar, Salvadoran journalist and researcher, who also assured me that working with data helps provide new perspectives to stories that have been written for some time. One example is Aguilar’s research for La Prensa Grafica (LPG) sections, such as transparency, legal work, social issues, amongst others.

Similarly, I discovered different initiatives that are making efforts to incorporate the data pipeline within their work. For two years, the digital newspaper ElFaro.net has explored various national issues (laws, homicides, travel deputies, pensions, etc.) using data. During the same period, Latitudes Foundation processed different aspects of gender issues to determine that violence against women is a multi-causal phenomenon in the country under “Háblame de Respeto” project.

And although resistance persists in government administrations and related institutions to adequately provide the information requested by civil society —deputies, think tanks, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), journalists, amongst others— more people and entities are interested in data work, performing the necessary steps to obtain information that allows them to know the level of pollution in the country, for instance, build socio-economic reports, uncover the history of Salvadoran political candidates and, more broadly, promote the examination of El Salvador’s past in order to understand the present and try to improve the country’s future.

 

The Limitations

“[Perhaps,] it is having to work from scratch. A lot of carpentry work [too much work for a media outlet professional]”, says Edwin Segura, director for more than 15 years of LPG Datos, one of the main data units in the country, who also told me that often too much time and effort is lost in cleaning false, malicious data provided by different government offices, which often has incomplete or insufficient inputs. Obviously, Segura says, this is with the intention of hindering the work of those working with data in the country.

In addition, there’s something very important that Jimena told me about the data work: “If you are not working as a team, it is difficult to do [data work] in a creative and attractive way.” What she said caught my attention for two reasons: first, although there are platforms that help create visualizations, such as Infogr.am and Tableau, you always need a multidisciplinary approach to jump-start a data project, which is the actual case of El Diario de Hoy data unit that is conformed by eight people specialized in data editing, web design, journalism and other related areas.

And, on the other hand, although there are various national initiatives that work to obtain data, such as Fundación Nacional para el Desarrollo (FUNDE), Latitudes Foundation, etc., there’s a scattered effort to do something with the results, which means that everyone does what they can do to take forward the challenge of working with databases individually, instead of pursuing common goals between them. 

Stones in the Road

When I asked Jimena what are the negative implications of working with data, she was blunt: “(Working with data) is something that is not understood in newsrooms […] [it] takes a lot of time, something that they don’t like to give in newsrooms”. And not only newsrooms, because NGOs and various civil society initiatives are unaware of the skills needed to work with data.

Of the many different internal and external factors affecting the construction of stories with data, I would highlight the following. To begin with, there is a fear and widespread ignorance towards mathematics and basic statistics, so individuals across a wide variety of sectors don’t understand data work; to them, it is a waste of time to learn how to use them in their work. For them, it’s very simple to gather data in press conferences, institutional reports and official statements, which is a mistake because they don’t see how data journalism can help them to tell stories in a different way.

Another issue is that we have an inconsistency in government actions because, although the government discursively supports transparency, their actions are focused on answering requests vaguely rather than proactively releasing good quality data —opening data in this way is hampered with delays. I experienced this first hand when, on many occasions, I asked for information that didn’t match with what I requested or, on the contrary, the government officials sent me different information, in contrast with other information requests sent by other civil society sectors (journalists, researchers, etcetera).

Where Do We Go From Here?

With this context, it becomes essential to begin to make different sectors of civil society aware of the importance of data on specific issues. For that, I find myself designing a series of events with multidisciplinary teams, workshops, activities and presentations that deconstruct the fear of numbers, that currently people have, through the exchange of experience and knowledge. Only then can our civil society groups make visible the invisible and explain the why in all kinds of topics that are discussed in the country.

With this approach, I believe that not only future generations of data practitioners can benefit from my activities, but also those who currently have only indirect contact with it (editors, coordinators, journalists, etc.), whose work can be enhanced by an awareness of data methodologies; for example, by encouraging situational awareness of data in the country, time-saving tools and transcendence of traditional approaches to visualization.

After working for two years with gender issues and historic memory, I have realized that most data practitioners have a self-taught experience; through trainings of various kinds we can overcome internal/external challenges and, in the end, reach common goals. But, we don’t have any formal curricula and all we’ve learned so far comes from a proof and error practices… something we have to improve with time.

And, also, we’re coping with the obstacles imposed by the Government on how data is requested and how the requested information is sent; we also have to constantly justify our work in workplaces where data work is not appreciated. From NGO to media outlets, data journalism is seen as a waste of time because they’re thinking that we don’t produce materials as fast as they desire; so, they don’t appreciate all the effort required to request, clean, analyse and visualise data.

As part of my School of Data Fellowship, I’m supporting the design of an educational curriculum specialising in data journalism for fellow journalists in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, so they may acquire all the necessary skills and knowledge to undertake data histories on specific issues in their home countries. This is a wonderful opportunity to awaken the persistence, passion and skills for doing things with data.

The outlook is challenging. But now that I’m aware of the limits, scope and stones in the way of data journalism in El Salvador and all that remains to be done, I want to move forward. I take the challenge this fellowship has presented me, because as Sandra Crucianelli (2012) would say, “(…) in this blessed profession, not only doesn’t shine people with good connections, even with brilliant minds: for this task only shine the perseverant ones. That’s the difference”.

Flattr this!