Supporting public access to government data in Brazil

Linux Professional Institute (LPI) has recently sponsored, an open data project in Brazil dedicated to transparency and sharing of government data. Although 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. 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.

About Andrew Oram:

Andy is a writer and editor in the computer field. His editorial projects at O'Reilly Media ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. Andy also writes often on health IT, on policy issues related to the Internet, and on trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business. Conferences where he has presented talks include O'Reilly's Open Source Convention, FISL (Brazil), FOSDEM (Brussels), DebConf, and LibrePlanet. Andy participates in the Association for Computing Machinery's policy organization, USTPC.

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