Brazilian government launches hackathon to promote transparency

Initiative aims at stimulating citizen participation and engagement in policymaking and governance
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

The Brazilian government is promoting a hackathon to develop systems that will facilitate the utilization of public information to benefit citizens.

The event will be held at the House of Representatives in Brasília from October 29 to November 1, with expenses associated to bringing the participants over covered by the government. Teams of up to three participants can submit their project ideas online until September 20.

About 50 projects will be chosen by a jury composed of government and civil representatives. The three best projects from the hackathon will get R$5,000 ($2,188) each.

The idea came about following the start of anti-government protests in Brazil and public demand for more transparency. The systems developed by the participants of the hackathon are hoped to enable citizens to get more involved in policymaking and governance.

Efforts towards transparency in Brazil to date

Despite the fact that a Constitution was created in 1988 to guarantee civil rights as well the the government's duty to account for its activities, the reality is that Brazil has fallen behind in terms of transparency based on best practices and international standards.

Measures have been taken to reverse that in the last decade, such as the creation of ComprasNet, an online portal that publishes information on government procurement processes and suppliers and conducts electronic reverse bidding procedures.

In 2004, the Portal da Transparência (Transparency Portal) was launched to perform duties including internal control activities, promotion of transparency and the implementation of corruption prevention measures. It also has the goal to provide online information on the federal budget in a clear and understandable language. The portal is updated daily, so expenditures incurred on a given day are published and available for consultation by citizens the following morning.

Brazil currently occupies the co-chair of the Open Government Partnership, after joining the body in 2011.

In May 2012, an open data portal was launched and a freedom of information law was enforced, with a myriad of provisions for the release of information in open, computer-readable formats.

The crafting of the Internet rights bill is another example of current efforts towards increasing transparency. Voting of the bill has been constantly delayed to accomodate demands from the telecommunications firms operating in Brazil.

However, developments on that front have regained pace, especially after it emerged the US National Security Agency had been monitoring communications of Brazilian citizens, as well as president Dilma Rousseff and the largest oil company in the country - allegedly to obtain commercial advantages.

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