Our proyect and hackathon/workshop for the Open Data Day in Bogotá, Colombia


In this post I would like to share some of the stuff we’re doing here in Bogotá Colombia for the upcoming Open Data Day.

At our local hackerspace, HackBo, we’re making the Data Week, a week long workshop/hackathon that ends the same day of the Open Data Day. It is a workshop, because is a learning by doing experience, and it is a hackathon because is intensive and problem/prototype oriented. With this combination we hope to escape of the problems of the fashioned hackathon like its volatile nature and lack of continuity and excessive emphasis on quick monetizable prototypes (something where we agree deeply with Irani 1,2).

We’re using grafoscopio, a moldable tool for interactive documentation and data visualization, which is also a self contained pocket infrastructure that can run off-line from a USB thumb drive or a low end PC and be connected to online datasets or code repositories (specially fossil), so we’re taking into account the connectivity and computer infrastructure contexts in places of the Global South, like our own. Grafoscopio is changed on each iteration of the data week, according to the problem that we’re dealing with each time and we create interactive notebooks and domain specific visualizations and languages in that process (see an example for public medicine info here). Changes in the code and documentation are made available in real time using the public repositories (see: 3,4 and 5).

This time we’re working on a citizen oversight on public spending similar to Open Budgets or Open Spending, and the approach is from a data activism point of view: we take data output from contra, a scrapper that browses a Colombian government web site with spending and contracts info in pdf and converts them into machine readable JSON. Last scrapping on Jan/2016 creates a 2 million records JSON file using this technique. For our workshop we’re working with a small CSV generated subset of this data dump and probably our data visualization would be some kind of treemap.

We’ve also spoken with some people who are responsible of the open data strategy and programs at the Colombian Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (MinTIC), some of them are even attending to our workshop and there is the possibility of some synergies with them in the future (time will tell). In the near future we hope to create some kind of twitter stream and conversation with MinTIC that gives account of the open data initiatives from the civil society.

In our attempts to create synergies, there are some bridges with academia, so we’re reading and making this experience also in the context of the project Ciudad de Datos (Data City), from a local University (Javeriana University) and using a activist research perspective trying to go beyond describing the world and more into linking/changing it a little bit.

At the end of the day, we’re gonna have some informal talk & drinks, so if any of you is in Bogotá that day, don’t forget to RSVP and show up there.

So, that’s pretty much what we’re doing here. Thanks for reading and any comments are welcomed.