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Latin American helpdesk turns one

Versión en español en el blog de ILDA.

Celebrating an anniversary is always an enriching experience; it’s a time not only to celebrate the year that has passed, but also to reflect upon lessons learned, identify mistakes and triumphs, and strategically plan for the future. This month we celebrate a year since the creation of a partnership between the Open Contracting Partnership and the Latin American Open Data Initiative (ILDA), through which we created a helpdesk to collaborate with Latin American governments, businesses and civil society organizations in the implementation of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS).

When we started this work 12 months ago, we knew that there were strong efforts in the region to further open contracting, and we had a feeling we would see a myriad of positive results. We are surprised and excited by what has been achieved.

During 2017, we collaborated with governments, public institutions, businesses and civil society in 10 different countries in the region, both at the national and subnational levels (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Paraguay, Perú,,,, and Uruguay). This collaboration wouldn’t have been possible without teams shaped by individuals convinced of the benefits of open data and the continuous improvement of public procurement processes. Together, we learned about different contexts and use cases, and strengthened the region’s community. The task was challenging for us as a team, and for those discovering the world of open contracting for the first time. Thanks to constant support from the OCP and Open Data Services, who act as the helpdesk for publishers in the rest of the world, as well as the constant feedback from our partners in the region, we experimented and learned about different approaches to reach one goal: an open and participatory Latin America, with efficient and transparent public procurement processes.

We worked with governments from the very beginning, for example, Jalisco in Mexico; today 100% of their data validates against the OCDS. We have also worked with national governments, such as Uruguay and Chile, who find themselves working hard in the publication process to publish not only open data, but to make sure this data is useful.

In Paraguay, we collaborated with two public entities: the National Directorate of Public Procurement, whose data validates against the 1.0 version of the OCDS, and the Ministry of the Treasury, who are about to publish their data in the 1.1 version of the standard, using local extensions in the fields of budget and transactions, which we helped create.

The extensions of the standard are used to add information that is not considered in the OCDS, making it possible to add fields or codelists to the schema to integrate additional information when required by the publisher.

Moreover, in Mexico, we have closely collaborated with the Federal Government and the National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection (INAI). We have also supported Mexico City and Transparencia Mexicana in the “Your data, Your city” contest, where 25 teams participated, resulting in 10 finalists and two winners who presented their product prototypes using open contracting data, with the aim of solving urgent problems.

This year, we organized two regional workshops. One of these workshops happened in San José, Costa Rica during ConDatos, where representatives from seven countries in the region participated. The aim of this workshop was to unite leaders of open contracting in Latin America to work together on subjects ranging from technical implementation to open contracting policy. This workshop allowed us to observe common challenges in different countries of the region, and identify ways in which we, as a community, could reach concrete solutions. In Buenos Aires, during the Regional Summit for Open Government, we had a second workshop with the aim to work on Spanish translation of the OCDS. In this blogpost (in Spanish), our colleague Oscar Montiel explains the importance of collaboration on this topic.

As a team, we are convinced that it is necessary to create community, promote the exchange of experiences in the region to help each other, learn about our mistakes and encourage one another. With this goal in mind, we have helped to organize frequent community calls in Spanish. We have translated many support documents, offered multiple training calls about the OCDS and helped solved hundreds of technical questions.

We are aware that there remains much room for improvement; we have to keep working on the translation of the standard and its tools, as well as improving the definition and purpose of use cases. We are aiming to get to a point where the publication of data allows us to create more and better impact measurements. Without a doubt, fostering and strengthening our community of data users is another major challenge.

There’s a long way to go but on this first anniversary we can firmly say that what has been done so far has been promising, the region is on the right path, and we are extremely proud of being part of this collective effort. We want to thank all those who have worked with us in these first months: Hivos, the Organization of American States, the Inter American Public Procurement Network, IDRC, Open Data Services and the OCP for this invaluable opportunity.

Here’s to many more years of open contracting with Latin America as an active and enthusiastic partner in the data revolution!

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