Across the Atlantic: Journalism++ opens its first chapter outside of Europe

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Journalism++, the data journalism agency, opens its first chapter outside of Europe: Jornalismo++ São Paulo, also the first data journalism agency in Brazil. The Brazilian office will strenghthen current data journalism teams and lead projects of data-storytelling for news media organisations in the region, adding up to J++’s portfolio of award winning projects such as Datawrapper, and Broken Promises.

Brazilian newsrooms are catching up to the data journalism revolution, although most of them still don’t have the resources to hire professionals from different backgrounds, such as Computer and Data Science, Design and Social Network Analysis, to lead data-driven investigations. Jornalismo++ São Paulo is an effort to fill this gap with a handpicked team of experts with an extensive experience in major Brazilian newsrooms and data journalism projects. “We want to bring data journalism to Brazil, helping newsrooms that want to do good journalism with data, but don’t have the manpower to do it in the short term”, says Marco Túlio Pires, journalist and programmer, one of the founders of the chapter in São Paulo.

Besides Marco Túlio Pires, who also coordinates School of Data Brazil, the team in São Paulo is lead by four other professionals: Juan Torres, editor of city’s desk at the Correio newspaper, the biggest in Salvador; Natália Mazotte, teacher assistant at the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and also School of Data Brazil coordinator; Tiago Mali, Training Director at Brazil’s Association for Investigative Journalism; and Thomaz Rezende, who worked as a programmer and designer for VEJA Magazine.

The name of the agency is a pun between a common operator in programming languages and journalism itself. “The operator ‘++’ means ‘plus one’ to a certain numeric variable. In other words, we want Jornalismo++ to go beyond traditional journalism, even beyond what’s already on the web. In our work, we increment journalism with skills from other areas, such as Computer Science, Design and Data Analysis”, explains Natália.

Jornalismo++ São Paulo will also maintain a blog about Data Journalism with the latest updates in the field for a Portuguese-speaking audience. For more information about J++ São Paulo visit their website:

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.

FLOK Society @ Quito, Ecuador

During our ongoing research, we have witnessed how the principles of Open Knowledge are being applied in almost all areas of our society. We have seen how software developers are considering Open Source as a serious model for releasing their products, how governments are sharing their data to bring more transparency or even how non-proprietary machinery designs are revolutionising agriculture, just to name a few examples. As the map on the top of our website shows, those initiatives are happening all-over the world, however they do happen mostly independently.

But, what if a set of such initiatives would be put in practice at the same time in a political framework? At a county level, or even better, nationally?


This is what is currently being prepared in Ecuador, where an initiative called FLOK Society has being launched in a cooperation between the Ecuadorian Ministry of Knowledge, Secretary of Higher Education and National Institute of Higher Education: a project aiming to change the productive matrix towards creating a society based on common, free and open knowledge, as part of the government’s National Plan for Good Living (2009-2013).

FLOK Society’s research team, composed by Ecuadorian and international researchers and led by P2P-Foundation’s founder Michel Bauwens, has been elaborating 15 strategic documents in the last months. This documentation, along with theoretical approaches, refers to success cases of the implementation of Open Knowledge happening already around the globe. Those papers are the starting point for the upcoming decision making process.

An event called FLOK Summit is taking place as we write these lines (from May 27th to 30th). During it, the feasibility of the actions proposed in the base documents are discussed by the team together with representatives of the government and members of the civil society (150 invitations could be distributed among citizens interested to join). Optimally, further steps and a detailed implementation plan will be drafted as outcome.

Because the benefits of sharing knowledge have to be explained and debated with the Ecuadorian society as well, the team has organized 24 workshops in the country since the beginning of the year. Ecuadorians will be the first beneficiaries and their support and collaboration are without doubt essential for the success of this ambitious initiative.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-05-26 um 10.36.38Considering that the project was officially launched in January 2014, the work done so far is impressive. We invite you to go through the large amount of documentation available on FLOK’s wiki, videos and social media (twitter, facebook). Surprisingly, there has not being much resonance on the international media yet. However, the concept already seems to raise interest among other communities all over the world, not at national level as Ecuador but rather in local urban areas, and hopefully similar projects can crop up as early as in 2015.

Workshop @ HacksHackersLima, Lima, Peru

DSCF8085After Brazil, it is time for Open Steps to document Open Knowledge projects in Peru, the last country on a list of 24 travelled since the journey began back in July 2013.

In the city of Lima, we had the pleasure to organise our Open Data visualisation workshop with the newly created local chapter of HacksHackers, and the evening, since most of the attendees where journalists, was mainly focused on data-journalism.

For those who do not know HacksHackers yet; it is a global network bringing the so called Hacks (journalists) and Hackers (software developers) together with the purpose of rethinking the future of news and information.

Within only one week since its official launch, HackHackersLima has attracted the attention of many enthusiasts in the Peruvian capital and are already preparing great actions such as an upcoming Hackathon taking place in several cities from South America at the same time. This event, conceived by the HacksHackers network has the title of “La ruta del dinero” and aims to research on how public money is being used in the participant countries.

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At the end of our event, during the great debate we enjoyed, enthusiastic participants could give us an insight on the status of Open Data/Open Government initiatives at both the city and the country level. We felt grateful to count with the contribution of Leonardo León, key person on the implementation of the Open Data platform of the municipality, which by the way is built on Junar. Leonardo shared with us lots of details about the administration’s actions to encourage transparency, economic development and citizen participation through Open Government mechanisms. In this line, already 3 hackathons have taken place in the city where some great apps got built on top of the data available. We would like to mention Mi Canasta, a web platform built by Carlos Salvatierra and his team at the FabLab UNI, where citizens stay informed about prices and availability of sessional products in the wholesale market. Looking at the future, we experienced that a new law has been passed on the municipality which will set a more solid base for the continuation of the measures already taken. As it happens in Buenos Aires, Lima represents a model for further implementations by other regions or at national level.

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Although Peru is part of the Open Government Initiative and the OGP since April 2012 and counts with FOI law since 2002, there is still a lot to do at the country level. According to the OGP report, the government is now preparing its 2nd action plan and hopefully the actual site dedicated for transparency will be improved.

We want to thank again the team at HacksHackersLima and Open Data Peru for the great organisation. They are the proof of how enthusiastic journalists, activists and hackers are making Latin America become one of the most active spots in terms on civic activism.


Digital Tuesday @ Belo Horizonte, Brazil

tdt-logo2On the 20th May, we have been invited to participate to the 2nd Brazilian Data Tuesday, taking place this time in Belo Horizonte, the capital city of the state of Minas Gerais. An event focused on Data, Technology and Innovation renamed over here Digital Tuesday. Since we were already in town before the day of the event, we could get an impression on the status of the Open Knowledge ecosystem of the region beforehand.

DSCF7944That’s why we landed at Seed, an accelerator program managed by the government of Minas Gerais to bring young entrepreneurs from all over the world along with their ideas to Belo Horizonte and support the creation of innovative start-ups with 6-months funds and a special coaching agenda. A 3-level co-working space, regular talks also available online (seedcasts), the best networking opportunities and a swimming pool full of balls to jump in if you feel stressed; the Seed offices represent the best environment imaginable for each one who want to put his ideas into practise. On the long list of start-ups initiated there, we definitely need to say a few words about CityHeroes, a collective platform where citizens can report any security incident or risk situation. The data is shared online to all users, including competent authorities such as the police, the next fire station or further public services in order to act and solve the problem as soon as possible.

DSCF7990Not surprising that these initiatives have occurred in Minas Gerais since the regional government has showed itself committed to innovate and support the use of new technologies. Regarding Open Data, 2 platforms have been recently created: one dedicated to economical data, Data Viva, developed in partnership with the MIT Media Lab, where you can search, download and visualise data by choosing one of the 8 visualisation charts. Apart from the UN Comtrade, the data comes also from two federal ministries where the information was already available online but far away from what we can call user-friendly. The aim behind Data Viva is to boost the economical growth in Minas Gerais and Brazil by giving entrepreneurs and companies the knowledge on how to make business and attract investment. On the same line, the platform helps the government of Minas Gerais as well to define its economic policies. The tool is Open Source and a new version is planed to add data on 3 further subjects: education, taxation and technical jobs. But DataViva it has not been conceived to compete with the second platform, Numeros, which was created beforehand and focus on indicators and social topics.

Outside of Belo Horizonte and Minas Gerais, local public administrations experiment Open Data/Open Government initiatives in the cities of São Paulo and in Rio de Janeiro too. According to two research articles from the ODDC, which we covered recently, in São Paulo there is still a lot to do, but in Rio the actual state is much more advanced. At federal level, Brazil counts already with its Open Data platform and another site dedicated to strengthen transparency. The national state is member of the Open Government Initiative and takes part in the OGP too since 2011 which gives indications for further engagement on the topic.

During Digital Tuesday, we could enjoy interesting presentations on topics such as Big Data, Data Visualisation and Internet of Things. On this last topic, Ewerson Guimarães from the local Hackerspace Area31, gave us a cool introduction to the technology, risks and potential of RFID/NFC micro biochips that can be “installed” on your hand.

Not forgetting that Brazil is a gigantic and multi-faceted country, we could say that the general momentum in terms of Open Knowledge is very good. In February this year, the local OKFN group got the status of full chapter and they have been quite active organising events since then. Also, we have discovered initiatives such as “Politica Esporte Clube”, an original way of encouraging citizens to follow the performance of its politicians and act as a barometer, as if it was a football league. Perfect to the upcoming world cup!

Tabula : Liberating data tables trapped inside PDF-Files @ Buenos Aires, Argentina

In the context of the Open Data movement, we are currently witnessing how organisations (whether public administrations or private corporations) are increasingly releasing data to the public domain. The intention behind this can be of becoming more transparent or to encourage developers to build useful applications on top of the published data.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-05-08 um 13.49.48For the sake of its re-use, this information should be optimally stored in a well-structured and machine-readable file, formatted as XML, CSV or EXCEL. However, this is not always the case and although such organisations are willing to share the data, the format is not properly chosen what, in some cases, makes the information even useless. It is the case of PDF files. PDF is a format originally thought to contain data meant to be printed. That is the reason why this kind of files support paging, paper-like sizing or can contain indexes, but in any case achieves the goal of storing large amounts of structured data as we expect from Open Data.

Activists, journalists or researchers willing to analyse big amounts of information published in PDF files often have to give up on their intention due to the effort associated to extracting all the numbers out of the files. That is why we want to introduce you Tabula, a tool that helps extracting the information contained in tables inside PDF files.

68747470733a2f2f662e636c6f75642e6769746875622e636f6d2f6173736574732f35333132392f3238373935372f36626566656564652d393236352d313165322d396538352d6165386631393337646562332e706e67Developed by Manuel Aristarán with the help of other fellows working on data journalism, Tabula can be installed on every computer (Windows, Mac or Linux) and, as if it was magic, extracts the information from tables present in PDF files, exporting it directly in a nice CSV formatted file. The interface makes the tool really easy to use, allowing the user to “draw” a box to select the relevant information. This saves up lots of valuable time.

Although, it is important to warn that only text-based PDFs are supported by now and not scanned documents, which are in their internal structure significantly different. This is a feature that would make the tool super powerful and is placed on the top of the improvements wish-list. Did we mentioned that Tabula is Open Source? That means that you can contribute improving it if you are a developer (OCR gurus more than welcomed!), contribute with some improvement ideas or give your feedback as user.

Meeting @ Cargografías, Buenos Aires, Argentina

DSCF7160Matter of fact, most of the experts and participants gathered in hackathons and events around Open Data / Open Government come from the IT or media scene. But Open Data and Open Government are not a private club for coders and journalists. You might give your two cents whatever you do. Designers are also part of the hacktivists initiating and developing such projects. And we have enjoyed so much exploring this perspective through the work of Andrés Snitcofsky.

Captura-de-pantalla-2013-10-23-a-las-15.27.59Both graphic designer and professor of heuristics at the University of Buenos Aires, Andrés had the idea in September 2011 to build what became later on Cargografías, an interactive time-line visualisation of the highest positions from the Argentinian political sphere. Users can search by position or name to explore and easily understand how the political framework is structured, what are the relations between the different positions at the power and how the higher politicians have been replaced along the years. The idea arose in the context of the Argentina’s economic crisis in 2011 and, although time was too short to fix it for the presidential elections in October 2011, the tool was finally achieved and revealed to be very useful during the next campaign of 2013.

The project got developed within the group of Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires (HHBA), created at the same time in 2011 and which counts nowadays nearly 2500 members, the biggest local group in Latin America of the international grassroots journalism organization. With other members of HHBA, Andrés collected the raw data, researching on wikipedia or scrapping the information from other relevant sources before sorting it out manually into spreadsheets. The actual version 2.0. is the result of this collaboration and, even if it already represents a great piece of work, some updates are needed and new features could be added to extend the current capabilities. The users’ feedback, set as a participative function, help to point out what could be improved and also which contents have to be completed.

The initial team has sadly been changed and Andrés is now looking for a developer to implement the next version. This is a call for a coder! Cargografías will be released as Open Source as soon as some help (no matter from Argentina or not) will be found, since the tool is definitely worth to be replicated in further countries and political contexts.

Meeting @ GarageLab, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Bildschirmfoto 2014-04-18 um 13.05.06Our aim to document Open Knowledge initiatives in Buenos Aires led us this time to GarageLab, a great community-run Hackerspace. Dario Weiner, co-founder and coordinator, received us in their fantastic space and gave us lots of details about their origins, philosophy, past and ongoing projects. Again, we could feel how such open spaces are the best environment for the development of Open Cultures and Knowledge Sharing.

This group of enthusiasts (more than forty members today) started meeting around 2009. Since then, their ambitious goal has been to enrich the innovation ecosystem in Argentina from the civil-society, contrary to the established assumption that such a thing only happens within the walls of universities or private corporations.

DSCF7155Since its creation, the GarageLab community has worked on a wide spectrum of technology-related fields, what they call BANG: Bits, Atoms, Neurons & Genes. It was june 2012 when they finally found a space for setting up their machines (3D Printers, laser cutters and other geekery) and start sharing knowledge through regularly organised workshops and joining forces to collaborate on projects in topic-based meetings.

What we found most relevant from GarageLab is the problem-solving approach that characterizes this community. As Dario told us, improving social-issues became one of the main focus shortly after the creation of the group. That is how some of their projects started; a study on the pollution of the Buenos Aires’ creek, their collaboration with NGOs and advocates to explore maternal mortality or the production of “happier” and more adequate chairs for children schools.


Also very interesting for us was to discover that several from these social-oriented projects are based on the collection, analysis and visualisation of Open Data. And as a matter of fact, GarageLab can be defined as a multidisciplinary community since is not only programmers but also designers, journalists or artists those who are part of the community.

Meeting @ GCBA, Buenos Aires, Argentina

In our experience, Open Government initiatives are usually implemented firstly at national level before being applied in regions and cities. This enables to test and experiment technologies and mechanisms prior to adapt them to more local administrative scenarios. The case of Argentina is different since it is the administration of the capital, the government of the city of Buenos Aires (GCBA), which pioneers in this matter.


Gonzalo Iglesias, Chief of the Cabinet at the Open Government Directorate in the Ministry of Modernisation of Buenos Aires, welcomed us in its office. Located in the very centre of the city, the building serves also as co-working space and laboratory for experimentation on Open Data and citizen-oriented tools. The first tasks of this young and passionate team gathered two years ago were to integrate and improve the existing digital services of the different directorates of the municipality; and at the same time to conceive new mechanisms promoting transparency and empowering citizens. The launch of the Open Data platform ensuing the Open Gobernment legislative decree in 2012 has been one of the main milestones in their work and has served as reference for similar initiatives in the country, such as the city of Bahia Blanca.

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The team, composed by less than 20 members, focuses its efforts on two main fronts: First, to assist the numerous municipal sections and agencies on the process of releasing Open Data. This involves sharing know-how and sometimes even advocating for the benefits of sharing public information with the citizens. In order to address these challenges, the team organises a yearly unconference called GobCamp where civil servants have the opportunity to learn and exchange in small working groups how they can make data available and develop Open Government instruments. The second focus of the Open Government Directorate’s team is to ensure that all the information being released to the public domain is actually demanded and finally used. To achieve this, two hackathons and App Challenges, open to everyone interested, have been already organised and proved to be quite successful, if you consider the impressive amount of civic apps designed so far.

Buenos Aires counts with a FOIA law since 1998, but an equivalent at the national level is still missing. However, last year, the government has committed to initiatives such as the Open Government Partnertship, created its national platform to host and offer Open Data to users for download, and even organised a hackathon to encourage developers, designers, journalists and other interested to think of ways to turn the available datasets into something valuable for the society. But the fact that Argentina is a federal republic and also that the political party ruling the nation opposes the one in the capital make a collaborative political environment difficult. A closer cooperation where everyone could learn from other’s experiences could definitely accelerate the steps towards more Open Government in Argentina.