During the 2015 electoral year in Argentina, a group of individuals and organisations came together to promote data-driven research into candidates. Yo Quiero Saber was born as a game; featuring aspiring politicians from all over the country, matching voters with candidates after responding to a quiz. The game was successful, gathering thousands of visits and ample media coverage.
How could this platform be improved and extended beyond the elections to cover other public officials?
Yo Quiero Saber is an initiative undertaken by a group of journalists, media specialists, political scientists and various non-governmental (NGO) workers in 2015, to promote informed voting in the elections in Argentina through a game relying on a database, featuring information about each candidate in different categories.
After its success during the elections, one of the partners involved in the process, Conocimiento Abierto Argentina, took a step to keep it relevant and adapted it to the post-electoral reality in Argentina.
Even though the game had been successful in its first implementation, more work was necessary to keep it running in the post-electoral context. Despite the game being successful, crowdsourcing never really took place.
What adjustments are needed on the platform to adapt and improve it for future use?
As a response to these challenges, the project was renamed to Policrowd, undergoing a series of modifications. To begin with, it changed its focus from candidates to public servants in office, and it made improvements on its database to be more useful for journalists: it can be now browsed with different criteria, such as; by politician, or by province.
Some thought was put into the system rules, bearing collaboration in mind: data can be added only when references are listed (a rule used on platforms such as Wikipedia) and each profile includes a version history (should changes ever need to be reverted due to vandalism).
Finally, some of the development resources were also allocated to ensure the reusability of the platform. After all, the original tool was based on a MySociety open source tool; Policrowd should allow equal replicability.
When trying to implement a project of this scale, such as trying to provide information on the public officials of a country, one of the main tasks is finding the data that will then go into the database that feeds into Policrowd. Conocimiento Abierto started by scraping official lists of information (they got information of over 2,000 candidates), but soon realised that working as part of a network was more powerful: it was important to know what each organisation was gathering, especially when they worked with volunteers.
What is the link between information and action? Even though it cannot be assumed that things will change by virtue of having data on public officials on a website, in a context like Argentina where influence peddling is part of politics, having one database that can map the links between candidates adds value on its own.
The next leg of work will be related to community-building, a process just as important as the development of the platform. They know a lot can be done in terms of hackathons and events to promote the adoption of the tool.
They want Policrowd to be the one-stop shop for data on politicians in Argentina; after all, this project was born with the intention of helping news organisations analyse data on candidates for more evidence-based reporting in the lead-up to the elections, and to see it implemented in other countries of Latin America and beyond.