Gobierto, the open government platform

Populate is a digital studio around civic engagement with base in Madrid, Spain. We work with organizations like ICIJ and the Barcelona City Council to help them design and build digital products.

In this post we explain why and how we are building Gobierto, an open government platform to efficiently set up transparency and participation initiatives.

Motivation

Soon we’ll celebrate the 10th anniversary of Obama’s Open Government Directive, which kickstarted a new wave of global enthusiasm around public transparency and participation, giving concrete guidance on how to implement these kinds of initiatives.

The open government landscape has slowly evolved in the last decade. Basic ideas remain the same; many initiatives have been set up (although with limited reach); public demand for transparency and participation have seen no radical increase; different organizations and activist groups continue doing advocacy work.

In Spain, the Transparency Law enacted in 2013 (making us one of the last countries in Europe to have one) forced public organizations to set up transparency portals; proactively publish economic, organizational and operational information; and created rules around the right of access to public information.

On a practical level we have seen how different government organizations, from local to national, have been setting up open government initiatives. Various implementation strategies have been observed, but a common one is to launch specific portals for specific issues. This a quick way to starting things but with other medium-term drawbacks.

Organizations end up with a myriad of portals (the main one, the transparency portal, e-services, budget visualization, participation, etc), costly to build and maintain, and with hidden costs in terms of the quality of the user experience: portals do not share completely common design and navigation patterns, reducing discoverability, usability and a sense of coherence in the messages of the public administration.

A common platform

So we set up to build an open-government platform that would allow an organization to have all their transparency and participation needs under the same roof. We are building a modular platform with shared horizontal infrastructure (content management, design and navigation, user notifications, APIs…) that allows building vertical applications to serve specific issues.

So far, Gobierto provides these tools:

  • Budget visualization
  • People and agendas
  • Stats observatory
  • Plans
  • Participation
  • Budget consultations
  • CRM: notifications and newsletters

We also have created the Budget Comparator: a data exploration and analysis tool that enables users to compare the budget of equivalent entities (ie. you can explore the budgets of the +8.000 spanish municipalities here: presupuestos.gobierto.es)

Modules

Budget visualization

Gobierto Budgets for Mataró (Spain) — see live at pressupost.mataro.cat

Allows to visualize the budget of an organization, its execution, a simulation of citizen share to the budget based on their properties, and an overview of invoices received by the organization:

We connect with client data (through their open data portals or via custom ETLs) to extract data and update Gobierto automatically.

Check an example at pressupost.mataro.cat

People and agendas

Allows to visualize the organizational chart, showing the different profiles, and providing information for each (CV, bio, activities declarations, etc). Also, it allows to publish their agendas, directly from the native calendar system they use (Outlook, IBM Notes, Google Calendar…).

Check an example at altoscargos.go.dival.es

Stats observatory

Allows to understand the organization through its main metrics: economy, employment, taxes, demography… In case of spanish municipalities, we already have tens of indicators compiled.

Check an example at madrid.gobierto.es

Plans

Allows visualizing and keep track of progress of plans: strategic, government, etc.

Participation

Our newest (and biggest!) module. A full feature participation tool to allow organizations to define participatory processes, launch polls, capture ideas and needs, publish docs, news and agendas… We are also taking the chance to experiment on how to rethink certain user interactions to increase engagement and making participation more appealing.

Budget consultations

A game to make citizens think about resource allocation in the budget. We confront them with the concepts of debt, deficit, budget balance… and make them choose ;)

Gobierto infrastructure

On top of these vertical modules, Gobierto allows you to publish content so you can set up a transparency portal with a standard hierarchical structure of sections, subsections and pages; upload documents and images; create agendas and news sections… Users can subscribe to content updates (so they can receive automatic updates and editorial newsletters).

Also, we already are multilanguage, both for interface texts and for created content.

Clients

During 2017 we have been working with several spanish public administrations, like municipalities, provinces, and regional governments to set up Gobierto. We have worked with places like Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Getafe, Mataró, Esplugues de Llobregat, Alcobendas, Diputación de Valencia, Generalitat de Catalunya… You can find several stories in our spanish blog: gobierto.es/temas/clientes

Services

Apart from our Gobierto implementation services we (as Populate) also provide design and technology services around civic engagement. We have worked with the cities of Barcelona and Madrid to help them with the participation platforms; and worked with organizations like ICIJ to help them with their online presence (we have recently redesigned and migrated ICIJ.org, we built the Panama Papers microsite, the first version of the Offshore Leaks Database. Read here about how we created Continent of Secrets, a game about Panama Papers and Africa).

The future

Starting up is the easy part. The challenge now is to keep improving modules, add new ones, onboard more organizations to use Gobierto and work with them so these kinds of initiatives have real and broader impact (the real difficult challenge ;)

Another module we’ll be developing in 2018 is Open Data: so you can have your open data portal integrated with the rest of Gobierto.

Open source

As it could not be other way, Gobierto is open source. You can check out our Github page: https://github.com/populatetools/gobierto/ — We offer Gobierto both as a cloud solution or via on premises installation and deployment. And you can download, install, test it and provide feedback and contributions.


Further reading and seeing at our Gobierto blog (in spanish, for the moment ;) gobierto.es/blog