Natália Mazotte leads the School of Data in Brazil and is co-director of Genero e Número, a data-driven magazine focused on gender issues.
One of the key aspects of the open data movement is how open data impact local and global realities. It’s been common sense in more recent years that just the releasing of data is not enough to change our societies for the better, holding governments accountable, providing better public policies and services for citizens or tackling inequality. That’s because the use of open data doesn’t necessarily lie in the hands of the common citizen.
We see the change open data can bring through the action of groups of individuals who have skills to understand what’s hidden in the datasets and process that information for mass consumption and reflection. Infomediares have been considered the most important group to get us from numbers and CSV files to actual change. Data journalists are special infomediares playing a vital role in translating complex information into stories that are capable of turning around governments and holding the powerful accountable.
In 2010, the Brazilian government started a program to finance the tuition of undergraduate courses in private institutions at low interest rates, in order to increase the number of students in university. Four years later, the program had already received 9 billion USD of public money, despite the fact that the growth of enrollment in private schools had dropped and transfers of federal funds for private education groups had risen. This information was made public not by an official assessment of the program’s effectiveness, not even by the common citizen, but from an opendata-driven storypublished last year by a data journalism team at a newspaper.
After the story, the government revamped the program.
Argentine citizens can monitor all the details of legislative activity thanks to an application created by the newspaper La Nación, theCongresoscopio, and based on open data about the Congress.