Buenos Aires, A Pocket of Civic Innovation in Argentina

Rebecca Chao in TechPresident: “…In only a few years, the government, civil society and media in Buenos Aires have actively embraced open data. The Buenos Aires city government has been publishing data under a creative commons license and encouraging civic innovation through hackathons. NGOs have launched a number of tech-driven tools and Argentina’s second largest newspaper, La Nación, has published several hard-hitting data journalism projects. The result is a fledgling but flourishing open data culture in Buenos Aires, in a country that has not yet adopted a freedom of information law.

A Wikipedia for Open Government Data

In late August of this year, the Buenos Aires government declared a creative commons license for all of its digital content, which allows it be used for free, like Wikipedia content, with proper attribution. This applies to their new open data catalog that allows users to visualize the data, examine apps that have been created using the data and even includes a design lab for posting app ideas. Launched only in March, the government has already published fairly substantial data sets, including the salaries of city officials. The website also embodies the principals of openness in its design; it is built with open-source software and its code is available for reuse via GitHub.
“We were the first city in Argentina doing open government,” Rudi Borrmann tells techPresident over Skype. Borrmann is the Director of Buenos Aires’ Open Government Initiative. Previously, he was the social media editor at the city’s New Media Office but he also worked for many years in digital media…
While the civil society and media sectors have forged ahead in using open data, Borrmann tells techPresident that up in the ivory tower, openness to open data has been lagging. “Only technical schools are starting to create areas focused on working on open data,” he says.
In an interview with NYU’s govlab, Borrmann explained the significance of academia in using and pushing for more open data. “They have the means, the resources, the methodology to analyze…because in government you don’t have that time to analyze,” he said.
Another issue with open data is getting other branches of the government to modernize. Borrmann says that a lot of the Open Government’s work is done behind the scenes. “In general, you have very poor IT infrastructure all over Latin America” that interferes with the gathering and publishing of data, he says. “So in some cases it’s not about publishing or not publishing,” but about “having robust infrastructure for the information.”
It seems that the behind the scenes work is bearing some fruit. Just last week, on Dec. 6, the team behind the Buenos Aires open data website launched an impressive, interactive timeline, based on a similar timelapse map developed by a 2013 Knight-Mozilla Fellow, Noah Veltman. Against faded black and white photos depicting the subway from different decades over the last century, colorful pops of the Subterráneo lines emerge alongside factoids that go all the way back to 1910.”