Supporting public access to government data in Brazil
Linux Professional Institute (LPI) has recently sponsored Brasil.io, an open data project in Brazil dedicated to transparency and sharing of government data. Although Brasil.io uses volunteers as well as Free and Open Source Software, they have expenses that need to be covered. LPI encourages others to support this grassroots project, which runs on a shoestring budget, with a contribution so the project can continue to grow.
Brazil probably has more public data than most countries, thanks to a 2011 law called the Lei de Acesso à Informação (law of access to information). This law mandates the release of a wide range of data of interest to the public, including government budgets, health care, elections, and more.
However, most of the data is released in tiny chunks in a form that makes it difficult to combine and analyze. For instance, analysts might have to "scrape" PDFs, which often put the data in a form that makes it hard for a computer program to distinguish fields. Or the data might be CSV files, which are more accessible to a program but don't natively support simple questions such as "Where is the highest percentage of COVID-19 victims?" Such data sets are all too common in government releases around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the need for making this data more accessible and understandable.
Brasil.io converts the difficult data into tables that are easy to view and use in programs. Users can search for particular types of data and filter the data sets (in Portuguese) for important fields. Some data sets are free to the public, while others require a small subscription fee. The site seeks suggestions for important data sets to release.