The best of ConDatos, the top Open Data event of Latin America

Three weeks ago, a most important serie of Open Data events took place in Mexico City. The biggest megacity of the whole American continent was chosen to hold the second edition regional conference for Open Data: ConDatos, after the success of the 2013 edition in Uruguay.

The main exhibition was enhanced by many parallel conferences, meetings, workshops and hackathons, with the objective of showing Latin American countries not only have joined the Open Data movement, but also have understood its potential and are decided to make use of it.

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ConDatos: A new conference on its way to earn a global reputation

Apart from the well-known Open Knowledge Festival, very few are the Open Data events of this size, financially and logistically speaking. The organizers manifestly wanted to show the world that Latin America, and especially Mexico, had taken the Open Data turn.


The reunion took place in good standing cultural places: the Biblioteca Municipal de Mexico and the Cineteca Nacional, buildings that are big enough to gather 180 speakers, 1000 registered people, 15 sponsors (such as Google, IBM or Deloitte), and host 50 conferences on 2 days, according to the information provided by the organizers.

And these data don’t even take into account the numerous parallel events that took place during week. Workshops, Hackathons, “disconference” and other community meetings which gathered developers, lawyers, lobbyists, aid workers, entrepreneurs and public officials.

It clearly meant to be a complete review of the region’s challenges and opportunities, covering diversified themes such as economic development, mapping, journalism, privacy, health, environment, civic engagement, administrative transparency, international politics, data science or open licence.


The finest to exhibit regional potential on Open Data matters

ConDatos gathered most of the international “crème de la crème” on Open Data and Transparency (and also a bit of Open Source): Open Knowledge Foundation, Open Data Institute, Transparency International, Sunlight Foundation, Knight Foundation… even some high representatives of public administrations Such as the OECD, Secretaries for digital transformation of Mexico, Chile, Uruguay….

Obviously, all relevant local actors were here, such as Ciudadano Inteligente, Desarrollando América Latina, Argentina’s La Nación datablog, Wingu, and Codeando Mexico. Many of them attended an Open Knowledge Foundation meeting after the conference, the occasion to acknowledge the importance of the Open Data community in Latin America: the mere Argentinian chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation claims about 500 volunteers, and many local groups were represented, such as Costa Rica, Salvador, Mexico, and Brazil.

Codeando Mexico, the organization responsible for editing the first Open Data website in Mexico, told us about some of the very innovative features of their portal, showing a civil society initiative can be an interesting alternative to governmental portals. Codeando Mexico’s portal uses the OKFN’s open source software: CKAN, and integrates two made-in-google tools highly appreciated by any data user: Open Refine and Google Big Query (analysis of massive data).


ConDatos 2014 has definitely shown that Latin America is bursting with energy when it comes to Open Data matters. The event is likely to earn a reputation after such a demonstration, and become a reference on the global level. Which will see next year in Santiago de Chile, where the 2015 edition will take place.

Beyond the general optimism, reluctance to transparency and lack of startups

If there’s clearly a shared optimism about the numerous Open Data initiatives and their potential to bring change and innovation, a few remarks can be made both about active transparency (governments intentionally liberating the data) and passive transparency (citizens asking for public information).

About active transparency first, most of Government’s open data portals register only a few datasets. Salvador, for instance, only has 57 datasets on its portal (as a comparison, there are more than 13.000 datasets published in France, and more than 150.000 on the US portal). Chile does a bit better with about 1200 datasets, but Brazil’s 350 datasets don’t look impressive considering the size of the country and the size of its administration. Argentina seems once again to be ahead: not only is has a furnished national open data website, but two of its biggest cities have one: Buenos Aires (26 datasets) and Bahia Blanca (200 datasets).

About passive transparency, a lot of the participants complained about the difficulty to access to public data, even where a transparency law exists. The administration regularly shows reluctance, through excessive paperwork or excessively long processes. In some countries, Open Data advocates even declare to fear retaliations if they ask for compromising data.


Beside, startups seemed underrepresented. Although there were a few ones like Junar, Socrata and Grupo Inco, almost every speaker was representing or an NGO, or a public entity, giving the impression that Open Data was only a dialogue between civil society and governments, leaving the private sector world out of it.

In Europe, startups such as ScraperWiki in the UK, Data Publica in France or Spazio Dati in Italy helped shaping the Open Data environment of their respective countries. We can only hope that a data startups movement will start to grow in Latin America, bringing their piece to the edification of a productive Open Data environment.

Visualising Daily Traffic in Santiago metro

Santiago metro is one of the main transportation system for its 6.5 millions inhabitants. A data visualization of the average daily traffic density in Santiago metro, made by Data Publica and Inria Chile, helps understand better how the daily traffic is organized in Santiago.


This is an interactive data visualization (Dataviz) showing the traffic in Santiago metro of an average working day, for each half-an-hour of the day. The traffic density is measured by the number of people getting in the metro. The data was found on the Chilean government’s Open Data portal:

It shows where passengers come from, regardless of where they’re going and what connections they could have made during their trip. The size of a circle is proportionate to the number of people getting in the corresponding station, and the ranking buttons add up all the data of the day/morning/afternoon.

As expected, more entries into the metro have been registered in areas with a high density of corporations or universitary zones: Santiago Centro, Providencia, Las Condes. However, the station registering the most entries is surprisingly a station far from the center: La Cisterna, with an average of 74.133 entries a day.

The only data available to measure the traffic density is the number of people entering in each station, which had originally been published by the Subsecretary to Transports (a department of the Chilean Transport and Telecommunication Ministry). A lot of interesting data is still missing, for instance the number of people getting out a station, the number of combinations in main hubs (like Baquedano), the number of people taking a bus before or after taking the metro, etc.

To estimate the number of people getting in a specific metro station, the Ministry used a Origin-to-Destination Matrix of working day trips built up by the Universidad de Chile. The sample was taken in a regular working week (Monday to Friday) of April 2012.

To estimate the average number of entries for each half-an-hour, data of every day of the week was added and then divided by 5, the total number of working days a week.

The Ministry of Transport’s datasets were combined with the following one: Feed GTFS de Transantiago, in order to have the geographical position of each station. The geographical coordinates of the whole Santiago zone were obtained here.

Thanks to the map, and especially the sum of passengers during the day/afternoon/morning, it is possible to identify residential areas (more passengers in the morning) and working districts (more passengers in the afternoon). The traffic density is indeed higher in business districts such as Santiago Centro (Universidad de Chile and Los Héroes stations) and Providencia/Las Condes (Tobalaba, Pedro de Valdivia, Escuela Militar, Manquehue stations). The traffic density is also lower in the other districts of Santiago, for they are mainly residential.

It is also a tool to identify some unexpected hubs. For instance, La Cisterna station is rather far from the center, but it is still registering the most important number of entries of the whole metro system! It can be concluded that it is a hub within an important bus network, covering the whole south-eastern part of Santiago.

This article has been translated by its author Louis Leclerc from Spanish into English. The original article in Spanish can be found here.

Meeting @ INRIA Chile, Santiago, Chile

DSCF6053South America presents a very active environment in terms of Open Data so we didn’t want to loose time and scheduled our first meeting for the next day after our arrival. At their great offices in Santiago’s downtown area, the team from INRIA Chile welcomed us warmly for a great encounter where we could get lots of useful information about Open Data in Chile and its neighbouring countries.

As a joint initiative from both the french research centre INRIA and the chilean innovation incubator CORFO, the non-for-profit organization INRIA Chile is working on several areas (ITC, renewable energies, transparency) with the focus of putting technology in action for society’s good. For this purpose, they rely greatly on data-collection and analysis mechanisms which represent the component of their work we wanted to discover about.

DSCF6047The team of developers, researchers and engineers are developing solutions such as Adkintun, a project which monitors the quality and availability of the internet access provided by the different ISPs in the country. The goal of this project, which counts also with a mobile version for measuring 3G networks, is to ensure that customers get what they pay for, transparently. We could experience as well about their ongoing project to monitor the movement patterns of Santiago’s cyclists and to generate relevant traffic data. This information could be very helpful to support the local administration’s plans for improving the current bicycle roads in the city.

Also a member of Data Publica was among us, another french endeavour working actively with Open Data. Collaborating closely with INRIA, Data Publica is a for-profit organisation which provides a wide spectrum of services around Open Data, Big Data and data visualisation that companies, administrations and other organisations can profit from.

INRIA Chile initiated in January 2013 the event series named Data Tuesday. Taking place in different locations of Santiago every 2 months, the sessions gather experts and data enthusiasts with the aim to discuss and exchange about the state of the art, new projects and future developments. After last year´s success, Data Tuesday will continue in 2014, now with a thematic approach, the next date is the 25th March and focus on Health data.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-02-28 um 13.47.38The existence of such a high-profile event taking place regularly and attracting numerous attendees is another evidence of the great momentum Open Data is experiencing in Chile nowadays. After leaving the military dictatorship behind in 1990, the country has been quickly transitioning towards a democratic and transparent state. As a matter of fact, Chile belongs to the Open Government Partnership and has already built different online sites promoting Open Government initiatives and citizen’s participation. Additionally, there is an official Open Data platform (implemented with Junar) since 2011 where the government is releasing and showcasing a lot of applications that use the available datasets. Not only the public administration is putting its efforts on this line, but civil society organisations as Ciudadano Inteligente or Poderopedia, and an independent agency for transparency have been all involved.

Indeed, there is a lot going on. Sadly we won’t be in Santiago for the upcoming Data Tuesday, but INRIA Chile has invited us to run one of our sessions on a closer date. We will be happy to meet you on 10th March at their offices for our Open Data Visualisation workshop!