With a turnout of over 700 people, La Nación newspaper and Universidad Austral’s School of Communications, Engineering School and School of Government hosted DataFest’s fourth edition. This is Argentina’s leading public data opening, mining and visualization event, and, in this opportunity, it gathered reporters, communication practitioners, data miners, designers, programmers, public officials, universities, and NGOs’ members.
This year, the event was held at Digital House and included over 40 specialized lectures. Scott Klein, from the United States, and Robin Houston, from the United Kingdom, were two key-note speakers at DataFest. Klein is the associate general editor at Propublica, a nonprofit online website for freelance journalism based in New York. “At Propublica, we develop more than 200 major projects every year,” he said. Klein went on to report that one of them is Dollars for Docs, a platform that can be accessed by citizens to look up their head physicians in order to find out how much funding they get from pharmaceutical companies. “Thus, patients can ask, ‘Is my doctor prescribing this medicine because it’s the best for me or because it is the one she receives from the pharmaceutical company?’,” he added. This tool also provides access to information on pharmaceutical companies. The record used to build this project was published by the U.S. government.
Robin Houston, the British technical head and cofounder of Kiln, a team of professionals who turn complex news reports into attractive and interactive projects, described himself as a techie. “I am a mathematician, a webpage developer, and I worked for The Guardian as a programmer, when the newspaper was launching its online edition. Then, I started Kiln,” he said. Houston showed several interactive maps –one of the most remarkable ones charted the world’s daily air travel traffic.
Chani Guyot, general secretary at La Nación’s Editorial Desk; Rudi Borrmann, Public Innovation Undersecretary at Argentina’s Modernization Ministry, and Carlos Regazzoni, PAMI’s Executive Head, also attended the event.
Among its panels and workshops, the 2016 DataFest included a behind-the-scenes report on the investigation into the 11.5 million documents known as “the Panama Papers”, presented by its authors: Ricardo Brom, Maia Jastreblansky, Mariel Fitz Patrick, and Iván Ruiz.
Another highlight of the event was the lecture “Opening Data from the Executive Branch”, delivered by Gonzalo Iglesias, Martín Alalú, and Matías Zubiría Mansilla, officials representing the national, provincial and city administrations, respectively. Iglesias stressed that President Mauricio Macri has asked every Ministry to prepare a data exposure plan. Alalú noted that his team is working on an open data website, “which accounts for a huge challenge,” he remarked.
“In Buenos Aires City, we already have over two hundred datasets, and we are building an ecosystem that will enable us to open data more easily,” concluded Zubiría Mansilla.