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Open Data Day: Experience in Costa Rica & Elections, Public Contracts and Open Science: the mix at #ODD19 Guatemala

- April 11, 2019 in Open Contracting, Open Data Day, open data day 2019

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. ACCESA from Costa Rica and Sofia Montenegroone of our School of Data Fellows from Guatemala, received funding through the mini-grant scheme by the Latin American Initiative for Open Data (ILDA) and by Hivos / Open Contracting Partnership, to organise events under the Open Contracting theme. This report was written by María Fernanda Avendaño Mora and Daniel Villatoro.

Experience in Costa Rica and activities of ACCESA

What we did In Costa Rica, on March 2th we celebrate the Open Data Day with a full agenda with several talks, workshops, and conversations.  The activity was carried out at the Center for Research and Training in Public Administration of the University of Costa Rica from 9:00 a.m. at 4:00 pm. More than 100 people signed up and participated throughout the day, and an approximate 46% of the attendees were women. One of the activities was the presentation of the Open Data Guide on Public Procurement and the case of Costa Rica. From data presented, we learned that not all public institutions use the integrated public procurement system and that the data of this system is not in open data. We also learned about Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS)  and about all the possibilities of use data to make better decisions if the data of the purchasing system were in open data format. Another activity was the presentation of Results for Costa Rica of the Transparent Public Procurement Rating (TPPR) and the development of a workshop to define the route map for Costa Rica achieve the standards in open contracting in short and middle term. Lessons learned from experience
  • In Open Data and Transparency in Public Procurement, Costa Rica has a big gap between what the law said and the real implementation of the law in practice.
  • One aspect that makes it difficult to take action on open data and efficient and transparent Public Procurement management is the absence of a single governing body and clearly established in the law with good muscle to lead governance on the issue of Public Purchases.
  • We have to stop seeing the public purchase as a purely administrative procedure to begin to see public procurement as a policy for the public good where the State uses its considerable financial muscle to achieve social and development objectives.
  • An action that is viable to open the data is the development of an API with public procurement data so that anyone can get the information they need and build the solutions that the private sector and civil society consider appropriate. ll that is needed is political will and technical diligence.
  • There is an opportunity to exploit the public procurement system, in order to collect useful data according to public policy priorities. For example, if you want to strengthen the enterprises led by women, then in the public procurement system you should ask questions about that topic to collect data.

Each assistant was able to take a copy of the Open Data Guide on Public Procurement

We support the organization of the event by collaborating with the snack for the attendees

 

Elections, Public Contracts and Open Science: the mix at #ODD19 Guatemala

In Guatemala, the OpenDataDay event worked around three main themes. Each with different dynamics and spaces for learning. Data and elections Taking advantage that elections are taking place this year, innovative electoral projects that use technology and data were presented. Each project collects and shares data in an open format that allows citizens to cast an informed vote. Here is a detail of the projects presented:
  • For Whom I Vote?it’s a virtual platform where users fill a questionnaire that measures their preference with parties participating in the electoral process. This allows each user to identify firstly their own ideological position, but also how closely they are with each political party. Moreover, the platform collects data such as demographic variables and location of users participating in the test. These data will be accessible for analysts to identify potential research proposals.
  • 3de3 (or 3for3) is a replica of a mexican project that demands transparency from political candidates, inviting them to share three important documents: their tax return, a statement of interest (to avoid possible conflict of interest) and their patrimonial declaration.
  • La Papeleta (The ballot) by Guatecambia is a directory that converts the legal documents of candidates registration by the electoral office (scanned PDFs) to transcribed and machine-readable data.
Tracking public moneyflows At the School of Data fellowship we have worked in a research project that maps out the process of public contracting as part of our work related to OpenContracting values. A visualization and the web platform was presented as a preview and a validation process to understand the needs from data users, their interest for Open Data about contracts and the best ways to explain and engage people into transparency efforts. Sofia Montenegro, current School of Data fellow presented her research and some of the key findings of the process. Open Science Led by Kevin Martinez-Folgar, a researcher in epidemiology who gave us a quick introduction to the framework around making scientific findings open, a tipsheet on how to conduct research that way, and a list of online resources to learn and apply to do so. We browsed around OSF.io to understand how to be open across the whole research cycle, ArXiv.org  to know a distribution server for articles and an electronic archive to learn and Zenodo to publish and share the results. We also reviewed some projects in github and learned about identification in the digital world through the Digital Object Identifier System. Last but not least, we reviewed the contents available from the OpenScienceMOOC and reflected around the lack of knowledge available for Spanish speaking audiences. The activity  was organized by School of Data and its local fellowship, with the help from trainers and the projects that presented their work.  We celebrated as a community, a space to shared experiences, best practices and exchange ideas for future collaborations. You can learn more about the work done by our spanish speaking School of Data community at our blog.

Open Data Day 2019: a joint report by Open Knowledge Colombia and Datasketch

- April 3, 2019 in colombia, gender, Open Contracting, Open Data Day, open data day 2019

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. This is a joint report produced by Open Knowledge Colombia and Datasketch, who received funding through the mini-grant scheme by Hivos / Open Contracting Partnership and the Latin American Initiative for Open Data (ILDA) to organise an event under the Equal development and Tracking Public Money themes.  It has been written by Verónica Toro (Datasketch) and Luis M. Vilches-Blázquez (Open Knowledge Colombia).

Context

In Bogota (Colombia), we developed an event, called IgualData, focused on demonstrating and raising awareness on salary differences among genders in Colombia where different actors were involved. IgualData was performed in conjunction with the public (governmental) sector and civil society. Thus, this event was organized by the National Planning Department, National Secretary for Transparency, Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Colombia Buys Efficient, Datasketch, Open Contracting Partnership, Open Knowledge Colombia, Global Integrity, and the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University. More than 60 people were participating in our event with different roles (citizens, academia, social actors, governmental bodies, etc.), which had active discussions and interactions on the importance of open data in promoting gender equality and how these one help discovering the gender pay gap in the Colombian context.

Challenges

The IgualData event was based on three main topics: i) gender pay gap, ii) anti-corruption and public policy with a gender approach, and iii) women participation in public purchases. These topics were useful for opening a debate on the rights and inequalities of women in the Colombian society through Open Data. Additionally, we added some open questions related to open data and gender issues, such as: How can we use open data as a tool to promote gender equality? What can be done to ensure that women, gays, lesbians, trans, bisexuals, and queers have power and benefit from the state budget? How to achieve a gender approach in the creation of public policies related to access to information?
This scenario allowed us sought to answer these questions since there are little or no reports on the budget and follow-up with the gender approach of open data, it can not be tracked or analyzed, the public budget has promoted gender equality in Colombia. Therefore, the main challenge IgualData aimed to have a global vision about the status of open data on gender issues and to discover the existing gender pay gap in Colombia through open contracts data associated with governmental bodies.

Methodology

Open Knowledge Colombia and Datasketch in conjunction with National Planning Department, National Secretary for Transparency, Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Colombia Buys Efficient, Open Contracting Partnership, Global Integrity, and Jorge Tadeo Lozano University prepared a complete agenda for our event (IgualData). Thus, the day began with an expert panel that included women from civil society, private sector, and academia. The objective was to discuss how the governmental bodies produce the data and how they have a bias and discrimination from the forms and surveys. The allegations of manipulation of data suffered by some of these bodies and the importance of institutional strengthening with a gender and intersectional approach were put on the table since not all women are equal, nor all homosexual, bisexual or transgender people. On the other hand, we had different interventions and exhibitions from various actors associated with the public, private and societal sectors. They showed some data analysis related to official and open data from governmental bodies. Moreover, we created three working groups focused on three main topics of IgualData, where participants discussed challenges, shortcomings, and opportunities:
  • Gender pay gap. This group discussed the niches affected by the lack of data with a gender focus. Besides, they reviewed the difference between the hours’ amount worked by men and women and the availability of data.
  • Anti-corruption and public policy with a gender approach. This table discussed the current status of the General System of Anti-corruption in Colombia and dealt also with the necessity to include a gender approach and strength the available data.
  • Participation of women in public purchase. This working group put on the table the points on the data state, where highlighted the fact that the majority of data are in pdf format, which makes more difficult the massive analysis.
Finally, we presented a mosaic that was honored in tribute to Rosie the Riveter. This work was built with data on the wage gap and violence against women, figures from reports such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the International Labor Organization, also, included photographs of feminist, scientific, academic women and writers.

Conclusions and Lessons Learnt

We obtained different conclusions and lessons learned in the context of IgualData. Next, we list some of the main ones: With respect to (open) data and interoperability status:
  • Currently, there is no gender distinction in the National public contracting platform, called SECOP.
  • Most information related to gender issues is available in PDF format.
  • Interoperability between platforms is needed (e.g.: SECOP and SIGEP to extract data such as gender, training, experience, geographical distribution, marital status, among others).
Regarding monitoring of gender issues:
  • It is important to monitor and measure how the resources of national investment projects are executed in the context of gender issues.
  • It is necessary to set a connection between gender pay gap information and training and experience factors.
  • It is necessary to include spaces to select gender issues in the SECOP platform and characteristics of companies in order to evaluate the participation of women in govermental public contracts.

Citizen repository of open data and exploration of the contracting system in Bolivia

- April 1, 2019 in bolivia, Open Contracting, Open Data Day, open data day 2019, Open Science

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. Fundación Internet Bolivia.org (FIB.org) and Pamela Gonzales, one of our School of Data Fellows from Bolivia received funding through the mini-grant scheme by the Latin American Initiative for Open Data (ILDA) and by Hivos / Open Contracting Partnership, to organise events under the Open Science and Open Contracting  themes respectively. This report was written by Pamela Gonzales and Wilfredo Jordan: their biographies are included at the bottom. Bolivia is past due on issues regarding access to information and data. This is why Open Data Day is an opportunity to talk about data and how to generate public value through certain projects. We celebrated it with two activities.

A public repository of open data

The Fundación Internet Bolivia (internetbolivia.org) along with 14 volunteers came together to identify and save data sets about social research in Bolivia. In our country, several institutions publish data sets, studies plus information to promote their research. However, with time, some entities cease to exist and with it them the data they collected over the years. The most recent case is the Center for Information and Development of Women (cidem.org.bo), which until 2015 published data on femicide and gender violence towards women in Bolivia. This organization closed its doors and shut down its website locking us out to the data they collected over 32 years. This is why we decided to create an open data repository that works as a backup, for these lost data sets, and ensures permanent access to databases in a single place. With this in mind, we identified databases and updated their metadata. This was a good occasion to talk about the importance of open data, how they are being used, their principles, characteristics and potential uses. The second part of our workshop was intended to talk about GitLab (https://gitlab.com) and its potential to become a collaborative open data repository. After a few hours of work, we created our accounts and published some databases with their respective metadata which you can see here: https://gitlab.com/bases-bolivia/test-of-base The participants were interested in working on more datasets and learning the ropes to free information, so we decided to meet again every 15 days to improve our work and expand the data community in La Paz. If the interest to catalog more databases continue and there are more interested citizens, we will be ready to take a more significant step, e.g. create a catalog of open data of Bolivia. The community will have to decide. We would like to thank the facilitators for their support: Miriam Jemio, Wilfredo Jordán, Guillermo Movia, activists and open data enthusiasts who took charge of the workshop’s dynamics, and the Internet Bolivia Foundation, for letting us work in their offices and it’s interest on a subject as important as this one.

Exploration to the public contracting system of Bolivia

In order to learn more about public budgets allocated to gender, on Saturday, March 9, 2019, we commemorated with a workshop held at the offices of Bolivia Tech Hub (the most influential collaborator of the technological ecosystem in Bolivia). This event was held in the city of La Paz, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with the participation of 22 people with a technical background. The workshop was led by Pamela Gonzales, a fellow of the School of Data, and began with an explanation of basic concepts of open data, followed by an introduction to open contracting. In the second part, we reviewed the Public Contracting System of the Plurinational State of Bolivia (SICOES) and the procedure to extract data from its website sicoes.gob.bo, the types of searches, documents obtained and formats. Although the data and information on employing are public, the problem is that this website is designed for public officials to publish the procedures and not for the users or citizens who want to navigate the website, which hinders accessibility, search and collection of data. A second point is that one of the ways to obtain all the routes of a specific contract is only possible with the Unique Code of State Contracting (CUCE in Spanish), which makes it difficult to search and obtain information, so a standardization of this Transparency platform according to open contracting standards is still a pending issue in Bolivia. In the third part of the event, we started with the data expedition. We searched for contracts related to gender, for this, we put in practice the techniques learned in the first part of the workshop, for example using Open Refine to clean the obtained data. Finally, the participants exchanged their contacts to develop common projects. As a result of this workshop, a survey we conducted for the public showed 70% interest in knowing more about open contracting and learning its standards.  

Biographies

Pamela Gonzales: I’m a serial entrepreneur at Bolivia Tech Hub, a collaborative space for Technological Projects. I also organized hackathons. My main goal is to manage and develop projects. I enjoy very much building teams who enjoy taking on challenging projects. Wilfredo Jordan: Digital journalist specialized in new media. Open data activist. Blog: https://wilfredojordan.blogspot.com/  

The Big Easy Budget Game and Open for open data

- March 28, 2019 in Open Contracting, Open Data Day, open data day 2019, Open Mapping, serbia, USA

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. Committee for a Better New Orleans and Center for education and transparency – CETRA from Serbia received funding through the mini-grant scheme by Hivos / Open Contracting Partnership and Mapbox, to organise events under the Open Contracting and Open Mapping themes respectively. This is a joint report produced by Kelsey Foster and Predrag Mijalković. To celebrate Open Data Day 2019, the Committee for a Better New Orleans partnered with Code for New Orleans to launch the 2019 version of the Big Easy Budget Game, an interactive website that asks residents to balance their city budget.   CBNO and Code for New Orleans’ Open Data Day 2019 event was held at Wrong Iron, a new beer garden located on a greenway through the heart of a residential neighbourhood on March 12. March 2 was the officially observed Open Data Day, but fell in the midst of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebrations. New Orleans City District A Council member Joe Giarrusso and staff from City Council District C attended the event and spoke with constituents about the importance of resident input into the budget. About 75 New Orleanians attended the event. The inspiration for the Big Easy Budget Game came in the years following Hurricane Katrina. Five years after the storm, the Committee for a Better New Orleans convened neighbors from across the city to talk about what wasn’t working for them. The story we heard over and over again was: the money. Where is it going? In a city where billions of dollars of recovery aid had been flowing in for years, many still saw the house next door empty, the roads  unpaved, and their street lights burnt out. When our former Mayor Ray Nagin was indicted on twenty-one charges of wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering, it became clear that transparency in our city budget was necessary– but how can residents hold government accountable for a $1 billion, 800-page document that they don’t understand? At CBNO, we saw an opportunity to build a bridge between government and residents, while empowering our community to learn and give input into a process that had previously been closed to them. No public document affects the lives of residents more than the budget: it holds our bus schedules, the books in our libraries, and the lights on our basketball courts. The Big Easy Budget Game shows residents how much funding each city department receives in a year and tells them what happens if they give more or less funding. Residents can see how the government works and make decisions on funding based on what they need in their communities. On our end, CBNO receives the data from hundreds of residents a year that we can share with our mayor, city council, and civil society organizations. Each year, our data is compiled into The People’s Budget Report and shared with government leaders and our community.

New Orleans City Councilman, District A, Joe Giarrusso talks about the importance of the city budget at #ODD2019 in New Orleans

On the other side of the world, in Serbia, civil society organization „Center for education and transparency – CETRA“ arranged a local educational event for around 30 citizens and media representatives in the city of Pančevo. With the intent to celebrate Open data day 2019, we hosted a informal lecture „Open for open data“ in a local coffee shop, which took place on March the 16th. Given that the concept of open data is not yet widespread and familiar in Serbian ecosystem, this was the opportunity to promote the concept by distributing a manual-brochure that explains how can open data be used in local governments but also what is the added value that it brings in terms of saving money, time and energy for our citizens. Since “CETRA” is one of the pioneers among civil society organizations to work on opening data in Serbian municipalities, we presented our experience about the process to the participants, but also took the opportunity to gain valuable insight from the citizens about the data sets they think should be opened in the following period. Currently “CETRA” is participating in a project on opening geo-spatial data sets of 4 Serbian cities, so this community gathering served as a superb chance for promoting the need for more open geo-spatial data initiatives in our country. Mapping geospatial data helps us by showing where things are in the world. If this data is made open, then more people and organisations can build apps, local services and more. Citizens from our city wanted to learn what are the geospatial data sets that can be created and explored, so we presented variety of examples, from databases on the national road network to databases on mineral deposits, storage of hazardous materials, population estimates, neighborhood demographics. Our community also had the chance to be presented with the existence of national open data portal in Serbia, which can be found on the following address:https://data.gov.rs/en/ . Important remarks came from some of our fellow citizens that we should work more on opening data sets from our own city of Pančevo and that is something that we will focus on in the future.

Residents and media representatives from the city of Pančevo attending the “Open for open data” event

International Open Data Day celebrated in Nigeria

- March 22, 2019 in Follow the Money, Nigeria, Open Contracting, Open Data Day, open data day 2019

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. BudgIT Foundation and Connected Development (CODE) received funding through the mini-grant scheme by Hivos / Open Contracting Partnership, to organise events under the Follow public money flows theme. This is a joint report produced by Ayomide Faleye and Yakubu Titus Tukurah: their biographies are included at the bottom of this post.

Open Data Day with BudgIT, Nigeria

When the message to host a community event celebrating the International Open Data Day was put out to the community members of Yaba Local Council Development Area, we didn’t expect the turnout that graced the event. For a nation whose government takes pride in its ability to keep citizens in the dark about government activities, the huge response was a breath of fresh air.

Uadamen and Ayomide before the event

Over fifty people attended the event, among which were students, health workers, traders, engineers, clergymen, and community leaders. The event kicked off with Ayomide Faleye defining open data, stating its importance in the development of any economy and how citizens can use it as a tool to demand accountability and transparency from their government.  She explained what civic duties are and tracking how public funds are used is an important civic duty. She also asked the participants for their perception of Open Data to which a participant answered that it meant data which has been processed for public consumption. Ayomide took participants through how citizens can have access to the national and state budgets and be aware of funds allocated to community projects. Emphasizing on the need for citizens to demand transparency from the government during the execution of community projects, she also stated that it is the duty of journalists to criticize, peruse and ask questions about government policies, ensuring every action is in the best interest of the citizens.
Open data should be a tool used by citizens to drive societal change.  As a citizen, how many times have you asked questions? How many changes have you initiated?

Questions

Uadamen Ilevbaoje, Tracka Project manager handled the next session. He began by explaining how Tracka developed as an offshoot of BudgIT which monitors government budget and its intricacies. Tracka goes to communities, share budget pamphlets to citizens to enlighten them about government’s plans for their community while enlightening them on how to demand accountability and transparency from their representatives to ensure excellent service delivery. He showed the participants several projects in different states and their current statuses and also gave instances where Tracka intervened and the results were successful. An example was the renovation of a healthcare centre in Sokoto which was nominated for 34 million naira but nothing was done and patients were sleeping on bare floor without mattresses. Tracka discovered the discrepancy, alerted the public about it and the health care centre was renovated. Ayomide facilitated the Question and Answer session, the most interesting and interactive session. Participants asked several questions some of which are;
  • Are security measures being put in place to protect citizens who decide to criticize or demand accountability from their representatives?
  • where do we find the data to track how public funds are spent?
Participants made observations around the state of the nation and how although it is a long shot, expressed their willingness to contribute their quota to ensure the nation is back on track. Some said their optimism is on the basis of the work done by that organization like Tracka and BudgIT and also, events such as this prove that they are not alone in the fight for a new nation and this gives a strengthened hope for Nigeria’s prospects. The event was brought to a close after the Q&A session. A major takeaway from the event is the discovery of citizen readiness to hold elected officials accountable. Before the programme commenced, the majority of attendees were unaware of steps to take in calling for accountability while some feared for their safety. At the end of the programme, participants were eager to discuss with the convener and speaker, wanting to know more, speaking about their experiences and commending the convener for a job well done. The audience also clamoured for the continuation of the event in the community. This will empower them to be better advocates for a more open and transparent government. Group photographs were taken to capture the highlights of a day well-spent. The event was also captured in the media.

Open Data Day with Connected Development [CODE], Nigeria

The open and accessible data revolution is underway. Citizens no longer want to be passive recipients of legislation that is considered ‘inflicted’ upon them but rather, seek constructive ways to engagecontribute-use the formation of public policy as a means to enhance their civic responsibilities in ensuring that people in marginalized communities are empowered. However, for this to happen, any engagement needs to orientate around evidence that is held up by facts draw out from open sources of big data. Consequentially, public engagement is reshaping how knowledge is developed, shared and used by citizens and stakeholder communities.   The Open Data Day on March 2nd, 2019 was hosted by Titus of Connected Development [CODE] – Follow The Money Initiative in FCT Abuja Nigeria with about over 50 participants that attended the event. The agenda is to show the benefits of open data and encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business, and civil society. The event brought together data enthusiasts among social workers, journalists, academics, government officials, youth, students, civil society organizations, community-based organizations and activists from all over the city of Abuja. They learned and shared skills around using data to enhance their activities in providing solutions to burning issues affecting people in rural communities. The event was focused on why government and individuals should open up their data for good governance and transparency with notable speakers and facilitators: Mukhtar Halilu (Asst. Community Engagement FollowTheMoney), Frank (Data Analyst- Data Lead Africa), Muhammed (Reboot), Jennifer Faeren (Journalist), and the host Yakubu Titus Tukurah (Data Visualizer- FollowTheMoney).

Participant asking question during the event

The concepts of “accountability” and “transparency” provide insight in understanding how open data requirements and expectations are achieved in different circumstances and the goal of open data has been to open all non-personal and non-commercial data, especially data collected and processed by government organizations. Mukhtar, a community engager, stated that one of the most notable advantages of open data is that making government data transparent increases public trust in government and civil servants, and also allows citizens to hold the government officials accountable for good governance. Frank, a data analyst from Data Lead Africa took a session on why government and individuals should open up their data and gave insight that, one of the key purposes of open data platforms is to promote access to government data and encourage development of creative tools and applications to engage and serve the wider community through the visualization of patterns and relationships. He added that in doing so, enabling civic engagement by providing an opportunity for citizens, public sector organizations, businesses, and independent developers to use a systematically-updated stream of open data is being encouraged.  

Biographies

Ayomide Faleye is a Research Analyst, and Program manager for Open Government Partnership Programs at BudgIT. She is the National Coordinator, Open Alliance Nigeria, a group of Civil Society Organisations seeking to promote good governance in Nigeria and ensure that it derives maximum benefit from openness and transparency needed for inclusive development and efficient service delivery. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Strategic Studies at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria. Since joining BudgIT in 2015, a civic startup backed by Gates Foundation, Omidyar Network, McArthur, she has been handling projects that advocates for transparency and accountability around government fiscal policy, Open Data, and governance. She is a lover of children and Football. Yakubu Titus Tukurah is a Campaigner and Researcher. A diploma holder in Surveying and Geo-informatics with more than 3 years experience in data visualization. Currently volunteering for United Nation Foundation, Amnesty International, One Campaign, Youth-hub Africa, and a Yali Fellow. Born and raised in Kaduna Nigeria with a burning desire and passion to drive change to marginalized communities ensuring their voices are heard.

Elvis maps your tenders

- October 24, 2018 in Open Contracting, Open Spending

Ever heard of public procurement? Public tenders? Public spending? It is what your government does with your hard earned taxes: hires companies to do things. In return for your taxes, companies build roads, buildings, deliver cozy office chairs for the ministries, or take care of catering for public schools. A lot of data on public spending is open. But the government also spends A LOT of money. To explore the public spending of France for example, you need to go through roughly 2 million tenders. That is a certainly a lot to handle for your spreadsheet application. Moreover: tendering is a quite technical matter and so there is a lot to take into account: buyer and seller details, tender procedures, award criteria, sector codes, competition, … the list goes on. Spreadsheets of dozens of columns can (and will) get confusing fast. To bridge the gap that might stand between a curious journalist and hordes of data, we have created Elvis (map me tender), a tool that makes it easy to see who the government hires to do things and how much money they give them.

What can I do with Elvis?

In Elvis, you draw networks (or graphs) of public spending data of a specific company or country, sector, time range. We try to keep the choices finite and as clear as possible.

Choices are finite

You can visualize sectors in a country, such as IT spending or health care spending , or choose companies from the menu and see in which countries and sectors they are active.

Based on your choices, Elvis will draw a network.

This is a network graph of money flows between governments and companies. It wiggles too!

The network comes with a sidebar which lists of all the companies and governments in the network. You can sort and search these lists.

Filter and search the list of all the dots on the network

Clicking on one of the companies or governments brings you to list of tenders they have participated in. Again, you can sort these however you like.

Sort them according to their value

In the tender details, you can see details of the tender (surprise!) and click through to other platforms such as TED (Tenders Electronic daily) and the opentender.eu dashboard.

We keep the details limited as well. Look for detailed documentation on the government websites!

But wait … there is more!?

The same company can show up with different spelling. This is because in the EU, there is no standard on how to fill in the name of the company. We have therefore implemented a simple tool to merge multiple dots on the network.

Before the computers get smart enough, you have to merge companies that are the same manually. Sorry!

There is also no standard to how much of the information is filled in. It so happens, that the government does not want to share how much a tender costs for example. After a long discussion on how do we show this sort of missing data in Elvis, we have settled on … fruit.

IT spending in The Netherlands costs strawberries

Why only Eastern Europe?

Despite we have data from the whole of the EU, Elvis only offers data from the countries of the former Eastern block. One of the reasons for this is the data quality: tenders in the eastern part of Europe are more transparent.

Value of the winning bid much more often present in tenders from the countries of the former Eastern block

Another important reason are available resources. The data (7 million tenders) is too big for our database at this moment. We are however looking for means to develop it further.

Do you like Elvis?

Do you have a question or idea? Would like to work with us? Feel free to contact us at tech [at] tenders.exposed !

Open Government and Open Contracting in Paraguay and Cameroon

- May 14, 2018 in cameroon, Follow the Money, Open Contracting, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, Paraguay

This blog was written by Rodrigo Valdez (Girolabs) and Transparency International Cameroon. 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.

Open Data Day #Unconference Asunción 2018

On March 3, along with other hundreds of cities, we celebrated Open Data Day in Asunción, Paraguay. For the third year in a row, the Girolabs team took the initiative to bring together people passionate about open data; as always it turned out to be a remarkable event. We decided to get together at Loffice Bulnes. This is the biggest coworking space network in the country and Bulnes is a space dedicated to entrepreneurship and social development, where Girolabs was born and has grown as a company, and where whe share space with other enterprises. This year we decided to innovate the format of the event so we organized an Unconference. What does this mean? Basically, it’s a model to break the common dynamics where few people speak. During an unconference, there is an open opportunity for everyone to speak and listen. It’s easier to understand if we tell you how it happened: First, the participants developed the program for the day. They chose the topics to discuss. Everyone had a possibility to suggest up to four topics and put them on the wall with a post-it. This way we made sure to include everyone’s interests in the dialogue. After this we grouped people by topic, putting the common topics together and identifying others. Through this we got to three main topics that guided us through the afternoon sessions:
  • Enterprise Open Data and Innovation
  • Government Open Data and the new Action Plan
  • Politicians and Elections Open Data
Once we got the big picture of the topics, we assigned three tables to have conversations simultaneously. Each person could decide where to join and we speaking rounds to make sure everyone could speak. This way people participated in two different tables, with different people. Each table had a moderator guiding the conversations. On the Government Open Data table we had Federico Sosa, the General Director of Open Government moderating and they gathered many proposals to include in the new Action Plan, which will be executed by mid-year. The Innovation and Enterprises table with Margarita Rojas focused on innovation through data science and big data in companies, as well as the importance of the data that companies hold and how it can help improve the commercial experience and life quality. A topic that also came up quite strongly was the need to bring academia and open data together, particularly through a thesis repository, so people can take advantage of these documents that tend to be stored in university libraries. In the third table, the A Quienes Elegimos team lead the politics conversation. A few days before national elections, the topics of transparency and civic engagement resonated quite strongly with participants. Two factors were that thanks to open data, we can help people understand who represents them, participate and vote consciously. To finalize each table presented their topics and we had an open mic so participants could present their own projects. Among them, SENATICS presented their achievements and challenges regarding open data. The developers of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Procurement Office presented the portals they built and the importance of using them to track public money. For one more year, we have proven that spaces like Open Data Day are very valuable for people, but specially it becomes clear how much work there is left to do. As a community, we expect to keep creating spaces where people, CSOs and government can talk in a convivial way.

Transparency International Cameroon celebrates the 8th edition of the Open Data day with a focus on the Public Procurement sector

Transparency International-Cameroon (TI-C) on Friday March 16 hosted an information and awareness raising workshop to celebrate the 8th edition of the International Open Data Day. Under the theme “Why should Cameroon use the Open Data Standards for Procurement to Combat Corruption in its Public Procurement System?”, the workshop organized with the financial support of the Open Data Community gathered representatives from the government, media, local councils, civil society organizations and technical and financial partners.

The workshop was a combination of presentations and interactive sessions. The participants had their capacities strenghtened through the following presentations:

  1. Corruption in the public procurement sector in Cameroon: Causes, Manifestations and consequences. An expert from Transparency International Cameroon provided the participants with facts and figures on corruption in the public procurement sector.
  2. Understanding the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS). With the presence of an expert on open data issues, the participants were able to have a better comprehension of “open data”, “open Contracting”, and “open contracting data standard”. The expert went further in his presentation to demonstrate how OCDS can help promote transparency and integrity in the public procurement sector.
  3. Open Data and the fight against corruption: the nexus. In this presentation and taking into consideration the context of Cameroon, the expert from transparency International presented the advantages of “open data” and “OCDS” in contributing to the reduction of corruption in the procurement sector. He went further to demonstrate how open data can help mitigate some corruption risks.

In the context of Cameroon, the key questions was, how can civil society organizations promote OCDS? While brainstorming on the question, participants realized that there are challenges to be addressed to facilitate the adoption of OCDS by government agencies. Among them we have:

  1. The absence of an information law: Cameroon does not yet have a law that could allow citizen to have access to information wherever they are and for whatever purpose. This has been identified as a major challenge in promoting OCDS.
  2. Non-adherence to international initiatives on Open Data: The country has not joined some of the recent initiatives aiming at facilitating and promoting open data. For instance Cameroon is not a member of the “Open Government Partnership”.
  3. Weak technical expertise from government and Civil society organizations: Implementing open data or open contracting data required a specific skill which is lacking at the national level. Therefore there is need to strengthen the capacities of stakeholders before preparing them to the use of open data tools.
  4. Poor knowledge of open data concepts and tools by the final beneficiaries: Participants believed that data are very sensible and if not well used can become a weapon. Therefore the questions raised were: (i) are citizens prepare to receive some data? (ii) And are they equipped to analyze the data? To these questions, participants expressed the need to educate citizens on open data and to conduct a sort of open data comprehension index as well.

The event was broadcasted on a national TV station during the Evening news the same day, also, one of the journalist present during the workshop had two articles published in its newspaper (Le quotidian l’Economie).

   

We should however underline here that this workshop is in line with the missions of the recently established “Open Contracting Working Group – Cameroon” composed mainly of three Cameroonian civil society organizations namely: Transparency International Cameroon, AfroLeadership and CRADDEC.

Makerere University Students Embrace Open Contracting!

- May 1, 2018 in Follow the Money, Open Contracting, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, uganda

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. Public contracts mean a lot to every Ugandan. It is a means through which many citizens receive government services or face frustrations with failure of services. Yet many Ugandans remain unaware of what government has contracted, they service they are to provide, to whom, when, where and how. Short as these questions may appear, they are important to determine whether citizens will get services paid for by governments, in the right quantities and quality. This was revealed by a recent contracts monitoring report by Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) in which 79% of contracts accessed were not reflected in procurement plans as required, up to 95% of contracts were being procured through selective bidding, contract prices being determined by source of funding rather than technical designs and scope of work, revealing of high possibility of collusion and fraud. This work was done with support from the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA). Access to information was enabled by use of information requests and visiting the Government Procurement Portal that was recently aligned to the Open Contracting Data Standards following AFIC’s advocacy to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) The main lesson from this finding was a positive government attitude to the feedback: all districts where monitoring was done accepted findings and committed to implement recommendations. The Minister of finance alongside PPDA also agreed to strengthen oversight of contracting processes as well as training procurement entities on the law, procedures and disclosure requirements.

Open Data Day

To create awareness about the Government Procurement Portal and use of the Askyourgov.ug portal to access public information, AFIC in collaboration with PPDA organized an Open Data Day 2018 clinic for students pursuing bachelor’s degree in procurement at Makerere University.  The event aimed to create awareness about their right to information, open contracting, share experience and the tools available to enable them exercise their rights and participate in public contracting. Prior to the symposium, students were tested on their level of awareness and practice regarding access to information and open contracting. The purpose of this activity was to gain appreciation of their level of awareness in order to pitch the discussions accordingly. It was also to facilitate measurement of the effect of the event on participants. Altogether, seventy one (36 male and 35 female) students attended.  A Twitter session accompanied the process in order to engage a wider audience beyond those who were in the room. The results of the assessments are presented here below. At the end of the event, an evaluation questionnaire was administered among participants to determine effectiveness of the training.  When asked as to whether Uganda had an Access to Information Act in the pretest, 37% answered in affirmative, 28% said no while 35% were not sure. This implies that the majority, 63% of the participants didn’t have knowledge of the existence of an access to information law at the beginning of the training. Considering that there were university students, it implies that the level of awareness among the general population is even lower. When asked the same question at the end of the clinic, a significant majority, 85% answered in affirmative while 7% said no while 9% were not sure. This means that at least 48% of the participants had actually gained information about the existence of the ATI law from this training. 18% of the participants who were not aware or not sure could be explained by the fact that some of the students came late and found when the session had started.

Figure 1: Whether participants knew of the existence of Access to Information Act

Another area where participants were tested awareness was who the information officer under the Act was. In the pre-test, it was found that 79% did not know who the officer was while 21% didn’t know or were not sure. At the end of the training the number of students who didn’t know the Information Officer of public agencies in terms of the Access to Information Act had reduced to 30%. When asked about their awareness of the existence of the Askyourgov portal (www.askyourgov.ug), 77% indicated they were not aware while 23% had heard about the portal but never used it before. This portal was developed by AFIC in collaboration with the Office of the Prime Minister in 2014 in order to facilitate filing of online information requests. The portal has an advantage that both filed requests and responses are deposited on the portal, limiting the possibility of repeat questions. The portal also generates statistics on requests received and how agencies have dealt with requests as well as feedback from requestors. Following the training 93% of the participants said they were aware about the Askyourgov portal, a significant gain from the clinic. During the workshop the students were aided to register and use the Ask Your Gov portal. Open contracting was one of the topics prepared to create awareness on amongst the participants.  In this regard, the students were asked what they understood by public contracting and they pretty much could relate with the concept. Prior the session, the participants were tasked to list at least 5 problems that they knew about that were associated with public contracts. Among the problems listed included; Bribery, Limited Skills, Bureaucracy, Lack of information, Fraud, Mismanagement, Non-disclosure, Substandard work, No response, Corruption, Embezzlement, Incomplete contracts, Poor work done, Conflict of interest, Nepotism, Delays and Collusion. An in-depth analysis was done to identify the most considered problems and the illustration below shows the most identified problems in public procurement by the students or procurement. At least every one of the participants was aware of problems associated with public contracting with corruption, delays and secrecy being ranked high.  Procurement students were asked whether they knew about the existence of the Government Procurement Portal where procurement data is published. In the pre-test a significant proportion 60%, knew about the existence of the portal. However, those that didn’t know were significant at 40%. The post test revealed that a greater majority, 96% of the participants were now aware. Having trained them on the access to information Act, the Government Procurement Portal and the Askyourgov portal, students were encouraged to file information requests. In the brainstorm students indented many pieces of information they were going to request access. Dr. Catherine Mbide, the Head of Procurement Department at Makerere University commended AFIC for organizing the training. She recalled how she was forced to change her research topic for her doctorate studies due to lack of access to information. She invited AFIC and PPDA to consider a long term collaboration on open contracting and access to information with the University. This was a very exciting event and the enthusiasm and commitment by students and their lecturers demonstrated eagerness.