Open data for empowering people

Civil society and governments working together

Mural - Día de los Datos Abiertos

There is more open data now than ever before. But does this mean that people have access to it?

Nowadays the biggest challenge we are facing as society is how to spread this data in terms of democratization. Information is power so generating tools that permit citizens to take informed decisions is a must, especially in developing countries.

But it is not just about publishing data, is about approaching different insights, visualizing data from diverse points of view and zooming in the information data gives to help people deciding about their lives.

Even if governments are favorable to clarify the information, with legislation and daily practices accordingly, many times these efforts are not enough to empower citizens when making elections. In these cases civil society organizations play an important role in both ways: to call for periodical and methodized reports from the government and to develop tools which permit people to understand what data has to tell us.

Uruguay is a clear example of this paradigma with four open data government action plans implemented. Uruguayan government recognize that people from around the world demand more openness from governments, promoting a bigger citizen participation in public affairs and looking for more transparent, sensitive, responsible and efficient governments.

This country integrates the Open Government Partnership. As it is stated in the About section of the OGP site, action plans are co-created by civil society organizations or direct citizens and governments.

One interesting example of this process is the atuservicio.uy (at your service), an open government initiative co-created with the NGO Data.uy that make information about healthcare providers available.

In Uruguay people can change healthcare provider every three years. Without access to complete information about waiting time for medical appointments, costs of medicines or staff available it was difficult to make decisions about which provider is better for each patient and his/her family. 

Atuservicio.uy publishes and compares information about providers available in the country so whenever citizens want to check if the health supplier they have is the one that suits better their needs they can do it in an easy and clear way. People passed from making poor decisions concerning their health to have an accessible tool which allow them to take control of information and make empowered choices. 

This kind of initiatives show how open data does not only enable people to make better-informed decisions but more importantly, empowers citizens to contribute to policies that are better designed to their needs and to a more engaging relationship with their governments.

As a tool co-created with civil society organization, spreading it is easier. Now, thanks to open data, people have the power to decide about their health.

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