João Batista de Holanda Neto is head of Development Office, in charge of Legislative and National Budget Systems, for the Senate of Brazil. Directly responsible for the Brazilian Senate Open Data Portal. During the conference, he'll speak about the brazilian experience on Open Data and the political perspectives allowed by it.
In the last years there have been diverse initiatives in Brazilian legislative trying to establish direct communication channels with citizens. There is nothing wrong with these initiatives, but, despite some innovative experiences, they usually don’t address the central issue: representative democracy as we know is in crisis.
We need to recognize that citizens not only want to be informed about decisions that were already taken or even opinions of their representatives on different themes. Do they want to know how much those institutions cost? How do we spend their money? No doubt! But this is only part of truth.
Citizens want to know why, when and how decisions are taken. Not only to be informed, but to have the ability to influence and take part of decision process. To accomplish that, they want to know what we know! For that reason, begin to emerge in Europe and in the Americas several initiatives like RegardsCitoyen.org in France, Sunlight Foundation in US and Transparência Hacker in Brazil.
This demands us an honest and courageous attitude that, not a few times, will cause us some embarrassment. But it is necessary to establish a new level of relationship with society in general and citizens in particular. Our traditional understanding of democracy is not the end of history: we need to reinvent it together for the next generations.
What are the real applications of the Open Data policy led by the Brazilian Senate?
Open data is not completely new for us. Since 2001, we have and outstanding experience to promote transparency in public spending: Siga Brasil, which gathers data from different government agencies to build a database freely accessible by anyone in the Internet.
It´s based upon a tool which allows searching using different criteria, selecting fields, sorting results and exporting it to different formats. This experience led us to propose a version to states, which will be known as Siga Estados.
We have a Legislative Open Data Portal, based on CKAN, which not only offers a large number of datasets on XML but also web services based on REST API, and, later this year, the same tool offered with Siga Brasil, to allow citizens to filter, sort, print and export data returned by search. This portal is part of a strategy to offer the same set of data to download, searching and browsing, based on open APIs and open formats.
If you’d summarize Open Data, its philosophy, its consequences, in one word, what would it be?
Many words have come to my mind: freedom, transparency or reuse immediately. Communion, in the sense of “the act of sharing, or holding in common; participation” also appealed to me. But, as important as they are, they are different facets of open data.
Innovation comes from the latin word “nova”, which means new. Open data means a new perspective to data, in which people are free to combine different sets of data to explore new ideas, create new products and services, and a challenge to institutions reinvent themselves and rethink their relationship with citizenship. Open data also mean an opportunity to society build new forms of participation and civil engagement.