The Transparency+ Portal is a digital platform of the Portuguese state, where citizens can access easy-to-read and updated information on public spending in an accessible way, combining data science and storytelling. Launched in 2021, the platform is now a reference resource for monitoring European funds, State and local budgets, and public contracts. In a world often perceived through lens of mis/disinformation, Transparency+ is building trust by nurturing civic engagement and open government.
The current scope of public data communication is mainly narrow and fails to connect with the public. Most data representations do not allow also for the general public to quickly access key facts about the functioning of public administration and impairs the public audit of the public administration bodies and governance. In Portugal, data shared in most of public data portals maintained by the Portuguese public administration comes in the form of tabular data, difficult to explore for the layperson in data science. Scarcity of public accessible and reliable data decreases trust in Government, also impairing data re-use and consequent economic value and knowledge creation. Openness and transparency are key elements for establishing trust and strengthening democracy.
Transparency+ Portal, launched in 2021, was an important step in providing a centralized platform where citizens can find several areas of information about the State with true transparency. It offers an appropriated data science and storytelling approach thus providing deep insights into government key areas in the form of:
- Relevant indicators that are in line with the nature, structure, and complexity of the data (available on Portuguese open data portal, dados.gov.pt);
- More effective communication strategies grounded in modern data visualization and storytelling techniques, creating a space for active auditing of public activities and fomenting active citizenship.
In fact, it was developed as a citizen-centric solution, as its entire design process and implementation relied on diversified civic participation (with surveys, interviews, co-creation workshops, persona reference models, among others), to guarantee that the roadmap, areas, and information available according to citizens’ and users’ demands instead of displaying the information and data in the way government wishes or envisions.
Transparency+ Portal aims thus to quantify the impact of public administration in the socio-economic fabric of Portuguese society: impact on education, health, innovation and digital transition, job creation, mitigation of poverty, international competitiveness, climate transition etc. In parallel, offering insight to optimize public administration processes by highlighting good and comparable practices: reuse of open data shared by multiple Public Entities and the contextualized connection to other public portals optimizes development needs and the accessibility concerns includes all users.
Launched with information about European Funds (PT2020, PRR), regular new releases with further info about European Funds (including Public Spending), State Budget and Local Administration were new updates related to PRR (art.360 State Budget Law) and two major State Budget and municipalities releases/areas. A design focusing on citizens’ needs supported by several iteration tests with different user profiles (reports https://transparencia.gov.pt/pt/acessibilidade) enhances the impact of the easy access and understanding of the information by civil society and companies. Furthermore, the portal was audited and awarded the gold seal of accessibility (WCAG 2.1 – W3C) and usability, including different devices including mobile.
The Transparency+ Portal is managed by a cross-sectoral team from several different areas of the Portuguese public sector under the coordination of the AMA – Administrative Modernization Agency. Includes also sub-contractors from the private sector. It has characteristics of a complex Program and is aligned with best practices regarding governance and management recommended by PMI – Project Management Institute, also using Agile approaches in development. The project will deliver 12 new areas to the portal by the end of 2023 and develop an in-depth analysis of the currently available data, identifying:
- Best representation for such data, taking into consideration the complex network of interdependences between institutions;
- Relevant indicators of public administration functioning which meet the needs and expectations of different stakeholders; and
- Most adequate archetypes for data communication build on a visual narrative premise, considering audience and each dimension of public administration.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Transparency+ stands out due to its storytelling and easy-to-read presentation, sharing information in a simple and intelligible way, minimising difficult technical terms for the ordinary citizen. It places citizens’ concerns and needs at the centre of the strategic and operational work done by the PA teams. The involvement of citizens with special needs guarantees accessibility to all. It also counts with the collaboration of the National Network for Open Administration (OGP).
The stakeholders highly engaging model of development and governance should also be stressed. It shares clear government information with civil society while providing better management and use of data previously scattered across various state platforms, reinforcing planning and supervision digital administration capacity. The optimization of production cycles to ensure the regular, almost daily, updates is also an important innovative highlight, that is expedited by the agile iterative process of development
What is the current status of your innovation?
Since going live, Transparency+ is recurrently adding features and new state areas through an ambitious release plan and has already become a reference resource for actual and accurate information for monitoring European fund's applicability and public contracts' accomplishments.
It also invites citizen users to data recovery, with the ability to drill down by county and a wide range of other criteria parameters.
Partners and Citizen feedback is very valued so, new features are added to the backlog and planned using agile development and deployment methodologies.
This agile based approach makes it possible to have different areas in all the different status: for instance, identification of opportunities for new areas is carried out while lessons are drawn in already consolidated areas. One major achievement is thus the increase in the refresh cycle of data in the most active panels.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Civic participation is at the core of every stage of development and releases of the portal: from creation of new areas, the service design and UX down to testing and evaluation.
The Portal is managed by a cross-sectoral team (c.15 entities and respective SME) under the coordination of AMA. Several civil society and universities are involved in the process, namely those that integrate the National Netwok for Open Administration.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Open easy to consult by all the citizens, it aims to be useful to all users, from less informed ones to experts, who can access and analyse raw data.
The Portal allows citizens, civic entities and companies to access information made available by the State in a more accessible way, reinforcing their relationship of trust with the Public Administration Some of the most frequent users include journalists, students, politics, researchers.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Transparency+ strengthens trust in institutions, allowing citizens and companies access to a range of valuable information for different purposes, including raising literacy levels or promoting informed public participation. It has raised awareness in society and more reflexion about public policy often featuring in media coverage. Although originating in a government proposal it had several inputs from other parliamentary sectors resulting in an extended political commitment.
Transparency+ has drawn nationwide attention and is visited from several other countries. It has reached over a quarter of a million views since its launch and continues to grow as new areas and features are developed and delivered. The increase in the refresh cycle of data in the most active panels. It started with monthly updates, increased to weekly, and now there is fresh data daily on the portal. This keeps Transparency+ compliant with 3 pillars of Analytics: be accurate; Easy to consume and updated.
Challenges and Failures
The regular updating is a challenge: the involvement of several AP entities with many cycles since operational sectoral collecting of data to consolidation of datasets and analysis to release in the portal, makes it challenging to automatize data pipelines to optimise the circuit.
Also challenging to find a balance between the technical accuracy required by the public entities and a clear language understandable by all.
Different levels of data quality and structured information maturity from the several PA entities, with different capacities and resources has also proved to be challenging.
Conditions for Success
- Constant evolution in terms of the optimization of the circuit since operational sectoral upload to the release of the analysis in the portal leading to increasingly regular (almost daily) updates.
- UX/UI – balance between technical tems and language and clear language and story widely understandable.
- Agile methodology - Fail fast and small
- Political support
Open Source based facilitates technical replication of solutions for similar aims, both by smaller or bigger organisations. It provides a flexible architecture which is technically not difficult to replicate. However, some previous conditions are important, such as capacity of partner entities to provide data and collaborate in cross-sectoral teams; mature reliable quality open data infrastructure; wide political support.
The impact on society, namely in the media whenever a new area of information is included in the portal, makes this project a big, but very important, responsibility to undertake.
- Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
- Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
- Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
- Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
23 January 2023