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The long road that got us here: ATuServicio.uy

Daniel Carranza|

A brief story about the project “ATuServicio.uy”

It was 2013 and DATA Uruguay was reaching its first anniversary. Even though we were exploring several possible roads for the organization (and still are), we already knew a couple of things: we are interested in open data and open government, we wanted to collaborate with other organizations and people and we wanted to promote these issues in Uruguay. Within that context, an opportunity arose to partner with Portal 180 to work in a series of data journalism apps based on open data with the goal of having useful (and fun) tools and visualization for the citizenship and also try to foster data journalism locally.

Temporada de Pases was born that way, as a platform that used the data that the Public Health Ministry was already publishing (although not as open data), allowing users to rank health services according to their own priorities. It launched on February 2014, a month when half of the Uruguayan population can choose to change their healthcare service provider. The tool had good reception and visibility, but the truth was that it was done with very little time and even less knowledge on health data. It was clear that we needed some expertise to go further.

In parallel, as we added tools, partnerships and friendships to our story, the Open Government process advanced in Uruguay as an OGP member. DATA Uruguay was already participating in this process lead by AGESIC, as one of the civil society organizations acting as counterpart for the government. Soon this would formalize as the Red de Gobierno Abierto (RGA, Open Government Network) along CAinfo and other local CSOs.

Dialogue tables were organized to deal with different issues and achieve concrete commitments to include in the OGP action plan. In one of these tables we met with representatives from the Ministry of Public Health (who had already seen our work on Temporada de Pases) and we agreed to start working together to launch something similar, but with proper data treatment and their participation as partners, allies and co-creators. This is without a doubt the biggest differential for ATuServicio.uy, it’s not about the data it shows, or the design. The really important stuff is that government and civil society sat down to plan and create something together, as equals, for the benefit of the population.

Funding for the platform came from both the Ministry of Health and the mini-grants given by the Latin American Open Data Initiative (ILDA), financed by Avina.

After a very stressful sprint, we managed to launch on time by February 2, 2015 and ATuServicio.uy went on to become a huge success. Up till 2014 and for the previous four years the same data -published as an excel file- was published to help people in their decision making. But only 500 people had downloaded it on it’s best year. We had over 35,000 sessions (around 1% of Uruguay’s 3,4 million population). Beyond numbers, the success came from more qualitative reasons; data quality improved and new data became available, users started to check and correct data and a broad public discussion on the health system started among political circles and the media. Above all, the project’s success assured its continuity through a government change and improvements on which we’re working with the Ministry.

From DATA we want to thank and acknowledge everyone who was involved in this process, that lead to such a significant recognition as an Open Gov Award, especially Elena, Diego and Jorge from the Public Health Ministry. We are very grateful for this project, and feel that it was a keystone in changing the way we (and the rest of civil society in Uruguay) can work with government. We’re already applying what we learnt in future co-creation projects, which is -in our opinion- the best way to create.

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