OpenData - - Open Data in the developing world?

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Facilitated by Evan Henshaw-Plath,

Session Description

Discussing a project to create a portal of open data for Latin America. is a work in progress to adapt the sunlight foundation's national data catalog to publish and track open data in Uruguay and Argentina.

Session Notes

  • I've been scraping government data, and the government agencies are using my data sets because I release it as a spreadsheet and it's easier that using their databases
  • Law in SF requiring meta data to be released with all data sets
  • Building datasets from journalists. Things that they have dug up rather than relying on governments
  • In south america, free software movement is very strong
    • Many governments have laws requiring them to use open source software, or prefer it
    • They have to justify using not-free software
    • A lot of it is based on nationalist or anti-imperialist arguments
  • In the first world, the dialog has been more about open data
  • Recently, a number of activists have gotten open data laws passed
    • But there is no implementation
    • No definition of what "release" means
  • Individual sys admins and programmers have been taking data they have access to and uploading it
  • There is data which geocoded every tree in Montevideo. Exact location and type of tree
  • There is an agency in Montevideo that tracks prices of every product sold in supermarkets.
    • Rabble will post the link
  • Sunlight foundation made a catalog: National Data Catalog
    • Adapted it for South America
    • It took two people two months
    • If you wanted to do it again it would probably take a week
  • Where is the best level to get this data? Municipal? State?
    • In Latin America, probably municipal because it's easier to connect to people
    • It really depends on the country
  • Normalizing data is a big issue. Even internally to an agency.
  • There is common ID systems for contractors
  • The mapping agency, the first thing they release were their maps as pdfs. But they they followed up with a posgis data dump
  • Because there is a Value Added Tax, each company has a unique ID
  • Each person has an ID number (from residents to passports). Having dictatorships are good for tracking people.
    • When you don't have concerns about privacy, it's great for unique ids and tracking people
  • Semantic media wiki
  • Crowdsourcing landlord data in New York
    • Have people submit who they send their rent check to
  • The Guardian in the UK has been doing a lot of work to collect and release data
  • Geocoding
  • Run your own geocoder
    • Called Geocoder
    • It's on Github
  • Once you get the data out, who are your allies to actually push it for application?
    • In Uruguay, we work with two groups. Friends of the Earth started daily newspaper. They added the concept of home delivery which didn't exist before.
  • There is a difference between having data and open licensed
    • Wikileaks. The data is there but if you use it the pentagon might not be happy
    • In Uruguay, we've had the mapping data for years because the techies were happy to give it to their friends. But once the laws changed it was possible
  • Each country in Latin America is different. But there are some general trends
  • In Argentina, it's clear that the government data that is released on the economy is totally fake
  • In Uruguay, there release their entire dataset, so it's easy to check the inflation rate
  • If you say inflation is based on only locally produced products, it looks like inflation is much lower than reality
  • Brazil has fantastic laws
    • They are about to pass a low on internet and intellectual freedoms.
    • Most laws say what you can't do, they are pushing a really forward set of laws
  • For crisis situations, people will go to Geo Eyes (who have a satellite)
  • Google's satellite imagery is freely available to build derivative works
  • Eventually the world bank took higher res imagery of Haiti, and that's what
  • Open Areal Map project
    • Helping folks build their own drones (there is a group in the Bay Area doing this)
  • Look up Chris Anderson and Areal Drones
    • The Gulf after the oil spill
    • All the plans and details are open
  • Sometimes getting someone to help you write a Freedom of Information Act request is the best assistance
  • Every Block
  • Open Block
  • Often the data is there, but it is being sold to commercial interests
    • Lobbyists wanting to buy legislative data for example
  • Often the people in organizations who actually deal with the data every day are techies and want the data to get out
    • They can be big allies
  • In Montevideo, a random person built a bus mapping site. Only then did the city finally build their own. But they were resisting that
  • Outside of the US, arguing that this is better for outside investment is a good way to convince people to open their data
  • Encouraging agencies to provide a contact list and a basic inventory of what data they have
  • DataSF: The site for the release of data sets from the city of SF
  • In New York, the mayor did a one time big data dump
    • There was no guarantee of continued data
    • It totally derailed the open data legislation
  • Commercial use clauses are a huge problem
    • It seriously restricts what you can do with it. Even just using google ads to pay for your server
    • Share alike
  • Open Knowledge foundation
  • Creative Commons has a data license


  • Who you talk to about opening up data, every country and place is different.
  • In south america, free software and open data is very strong
    • A lot of it is based on nationalist or anti-imperialist arguments
  • Many places including the US, there are issues of normalizing data
  • But in some parts of South America, each person has an ID number (that follows you from resident papers to passports).
    • It turns out having dictatorships are good for structured data.
  • Open data projects and transparency are hot right now. It's seen as forward and progressive for government agencies. Now is a good time to push for data you want.
  • Often the nerds inside organizations who actually deal with the data every day want the data to get out
  • Brazil has an internet rights law in the pipeline that is really forward thinking. If you are doing legislative work take a look.