CONSEGI 2011, a promising start /img/conse.jpg

CONSEGI 2011 just started, and looks promising for two or three reasons. The first one is shown in this picture of the line at the registration desk: there’s a lot of young students here!

Hopefully, this is just normal here in Brazil, and only seems surprising to me. However, I would have never expected so many young people at a Conference with such a “boring” program: E-government, Open Data… So far, most events of the same type I’ve attended in Italy and other parts of Europe had a much older attendance! This is great. It’s the way it should be at all Open Government conferences, worldwide.

Judging from the Conference program, slides seen around, informal talks with local participants and most remarks at the opening ceremony, the starting point of CONSEGI 2011 seems (I’ll know better in a couple of days) the same points now debated in Europe and North America: Open Data, Big Data, Linked Data, Reuse, data licensing.

The goal of much of the Conference will be to spread the word among Brazilian public officers and see what makes sense to “/import” as is, and what needs adaptation or simply wouldn’t work, for whatever reason, here in Brazil.

After participation of many young people, the second thing I was happy to see at the very beginning and most formal moment of the conference, are hints that Open Data, more than a great option, may just be the only way forward. Some speakers remembered the fact that demand for more transparency in government is a worldwide phaenomenon today, that cannot be satisfied without open, readily available information. Not just for ideological reasons, but also for merely economic ones: sometimes, managing public data in not open ways is simply too expensive. That’s why I liked the remark from Marcos Mazoni, that “this is a technical event with sociological impact”.

As far as I am concerned, and due to the reason why I am here at CONSEGI (see below), the best part for me of the opening ceremony were the words of Mr Edson Ronaldo Nascimento, Secretary for Planning and Budget of the Federal District, who said (my summary):

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At a certain point, transparency becomes not an issue of supply, but of demand. We already have several officials websites, portals, and online tools for Open Government and Open Data, but they don't do much good _if society is not interested_.
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Very similar words came during the debate on the same theme, “Open Government Data and Citizen Participation. Here are two sample quotes from that panel:

  • Government needs to be assisted, controlled, supported by society

  • we MUST find ways to involve people to build collectively open government

The reason why those words impressed me is that, as I said, problems like these are just what I’ve come to discuss here at CONSEGI. As a matter of fact, this afternoon I’ll give a talk about a theme that is strictly related, though not always in ways that are evident, to Open Data: digital inclusion, that is being not just able but also (above all!) willing to use Open Data and other digital technologies to protect one’s civil rights. Tomorrow I’ll lead a workshop on the same theme. It was very interesting for me to hear explicit confirmations that this is a hot topic.

All in all, CONSEGI 2011 has had a great start for me. Stay tuned in the next days for more reports.