Observatory of Open Urban Works (Observatorio de Obras Urbanas Abiertas)
An online and interactive platform that allows citizens to access information on more than 1000 public projects of Buenos Aires City Government. Providing data visualizations and geo-referenced maps, the Observatory facilitates citizen control. The initiative seeks to increase transparency in public management based on real-time monitoring with up-to-date and structured data.
Observatorio de Obras Urbanas Abiertas aims to foster transparency in public works management and facilitate citizen engagement in the design, control, and evaluation of the projects. The project is part of Mayor Larreta‘s 50 Government Commitments. The commitments are specific and measurable actions that express government performance and enables diverse accountability mechanisms.
Thus, under its open government policy, the Buenos Aires City Government set specific standards, for the different agencies, on how to collect and published data on the different public work projects that are being carried out in the city's neighborhoods. Then, this information was published in an open data format, and the Government launched an online interactive platform to engage neighbors and allow them to monitor how each of the projects advances.
The Observatory allows the 3 million neighbors of the City of Buenos Aires (as well as the general public) to:
● See renders and photos of each of the works.
● Download the dataset in open data format.
● Follow the progress of the works, with information on the beginning and ending, as well as the updated status of each project.
● Learn details about the works such as name, type, description, urban justification, address, budget, etc.
● Pinpoint the government agency responsible for the works and contact information.
● Access information on building companies, contractors, employed workers, and biddings.
● Visualize great amounts of information in a quick and easy way, using different criteria
● Explore public works filtering data by the commune, government agency, type of work, geolocation, investment, stage of accomplishment.
● Contact the city government asking for further information, leave a suggestion or complain.
The Observatorio de Obras Abiertas Urbanas consist of four (4) main stages:
1. Data Standardization
2. Making data available in an open format
3. Platform: design and launching
4. Participatory feedback and collaborative design of new indicators
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The Observatorio de Obras Urbanas Abiertas completely defies the status quo of the provision of public work information in the City of Buenos Aires, since it now provides a complete and integrated dataset in open format that is periodically updated and can be easily downloaded. At the same time, it introduces a “one-stop” site that concentrates all the information about public works.
Previously this information was dispersed, and public officials and managers in each area used different standards to collect, update and share the data. It also includes more than 40 indicators that seek to comply with the highest international standards on data and transparency. Furthermore, the participatory and collaborative axis of the initiative gives to the observatory an innovative approach and highlight that open government innovations are not just about technology .
Firstly, Buenos Aires neighbors can have access trustworthy and easy to data on public works, explore the projects in detail, and even ask for more information. Secondly, there is an ongoing process of citizens' engagement and collaboration, in which civil society was consulted to provide honest user feedback that enabled adjustments to the platform, and that in the following steps will result in the collaborative design of new indicators. Finally, the observatory plays an important part in the government's accountability and in closing the feedback loop of citizen engagement.
When the development started it found inspiration in the Open Public Work Site of Mexico: http://www.transparenciapresupuestaria.gob.mx/es/PTP/Obra_Publica_Abierta
What is the current status of your innovation?
The first version of the Observatory was originally designed during 2016 as part of Mayor Larreta‘s 50 Government Commitments and was expected to host only major public works, mainly infrastructure and transport projects. However, between March and May 2017, there was a pre-launch testing event, and a series of dialogue tables with members of different government agencies, civil society organizations and other stakeholders that provided feedback on the initiative.
As a result, of these collaborative spaces, the City Government took into account many of civil society demands and suggestions, and committed to enrich the initiative by adding new indicators, developing more participatory spaces, and scaling up the Observatory by including information of all the public works carried out by the city government (more than 1,000 projects from 16 government agencies).
Nowadays, the Observatory better responds to the demand of civil society organizations and neighborhoods, and provides easy and open access to in-depth information and user-friendly visualizations to the general public, while it favors government responsiveness and citizen engagement. It helps to provide a better quality of services to the neighborhoods, improves the internal exchange of information, and strengthens the legitimacy of decision making and public expenditure.
The observatory has been included as part of the ecosystem of open government initiatives, that are part of the open government policy of the Buenos Aires city. Through this umbrella concept and a “one-stop” website, the City Government implements several communicational strategies to get the word out and get citizens to engage with the initiative.
Collaborations & Partnerships
To enhance the platform and it's user-friendly design, the government hired Socio público, a communication agency focused on public affairs.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Citizens, civil society organizations and companies were asked for feedback when the first version of the platform was designed and will be invited to take part in the collaborative design of indicators.
Also, as it was mentioned before, the Observatory is the result of the work of different areas of government exchanging information, updating their databases, being open to outside feedback, and working as a team to enrich the innovation and scale it up to make it truly useful for both government officers and citizens.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
So far, the impact has been at the internal level. The existence of two areas, especially one with many public works in its agenda (Ministry of Urban Development and Transport), pushed other internal players to participate and collaborate with the Observatory.
Thus, this created an opportunity for coordination among different areas. The impacts can be described as follows:
- Desire to open up information
- Strengthening of follow-up mechanisms and reporting
- Increase in transparency with the citizens
Moreover, for us, public works are what changes and improve the quality of life of citizens, not only in the short-term but -especially- in the long term. It is a way of being accountable, it is a way of building a stronger relationship of trust with citizens. We also hope this platform has an impact in terms of how reporting on public works happen at the internal level of government, by adding a layer of accountability. We hope the product improves the quality of the delivery of the Goverment's commitments.
Challenges and Failures
An important challenge that has been encountered in the development of the Observatory was to found “information silos” in many areas, especially in the ones whose main activities are not related to public works. So to break these barriers, first, it was important to clearly communicate the Mayor´s vision and the goal we would strive to achieve and show which were the gains and incentives for achieving such a goal. Secondly, to develop a standardized protocol on how to manage the data, and finally, provide constant support and guidance on the “conversion” process.
Conditions for Success
The main condition that is necessary for the success of innovation such as the Observatorio de Obras Urbanas Abiertas is political willingness at the highest level of the administration to adopt open government tools and standards. To execute that mandate it is important to designate a person or agency to be the project leader, to coordinate the individual efforts of the agencies and guide them in how to implement the different steps of the process.
At the same time, each of the dependencies involved should designate a public work data officer who would be responsible for accomplishing the required standards of data quality and keeping the database updated. Of course, supporting infrastructure and services such as those required to design and launch a web platform would be needed.
The Observatory has a great potential to be replicated as a way to bring transparency, credibility, and predictability to the government's management. Also, to reduce the levels of mistrust from civil society.
As well, it would help to provide better information and enable citizens to take part in the design and monitoring processes of construction projects that will have an impact on their community.
1. Have a clear understanding of which is the baseline regarding data availability and management in each area . Do not expect that it will be homogeneous across the government dependencies.
2. Open the process to civil society scrutiny in early stages of design and implementation, since this will provide you with very useful feedback about what type of information citizens and private organizations expect to find in these platforms.
3. Do not underestimate the importance of designating an agency for coordination