First Five with Renato Berrino Malaccorto, ODC’s new Research Manager
A series where we get to know people within ODC’s network: new staff, volunteers and affiliates in the open data community.
Between getting to know new Advisory Board Members, we also asked Renato Berrino Malaccorto (who recently joined as our Research Manager), these first five:
1. Where did your open data journey begin?
I was born in Buenos Aires and later grew up in smaller cities in the interior of the province. At the age of 18, I returned to Buenos Aires to study law. I did that because I always knew that I was interested in the part of law that dealt with the public sphere, trying to understand society with a critical approach and based on human rights, and the University of Buenos Aires ‘ Law School offered me that kind of approach.
I conceive law as a tool for change and I am interested in thinking about it from the public perspective. I think It must be approached from an ethical perspective, at the service of society, in defense of populations with higher levels of vulnerability. I believe that the world in which we live and the dynamic contexts of globalization force us, more than ever, to know and defend fundamental rights, and to understand them in their entirety we need an intersectional approach.
With this in mind, I began to make my way into the public sector. I worked as an Open Government Project Coordinator at the Government of the City of Buenos Aires for four years. My responsibility was to design, manage and evaluate open government projects. We developed initiatives to advance towards an Open State and the improvement of public services, with the usage of open data for innovative topics like Sexual Education or Housing, all relevant thematic policy issues in the international context. In this experience I learned to work with a combination of legal and digital tools, and with knowledge of public policy processes, to promote openness and transparency.
After this period, I decided that I had to continue deepening my knowledge and acquiring theoretical tools to help me scale what I had learned. I moved to Spain (where I currently live) through a scholarship of the Ibero-American University Postgraduate Association (AUIP).I did my Master’s Degree in Management and Public Administration at Cádiz University, where I continued to do research in Open Government tools applied in local governments. I decided to stay in Spain, and I worked for different international cooperation organizations, putting my law background into practice and as a public innovation consultant, helping iberoamerican cities to develop digital public transformation plans.
I have also addressed transparency, open data and citizen participation topics in my academic life, by taking Open Government courses at the OAS School of Government, being part of the Deliberative Democracy Institute at the Kettering Foundation for two years, being an active member of the “Open Government Academic Network”, and teaching Constitutional Law and Electronic Government at the University.
I worked with different stakeholders and met different organizations that work to deepen open government policies globally. One of the organizations I’ve been following all these years is the ODC, so I’m super happy with this challenge to lead on our the research activities.
2. What do you hope to bring to the current wave of open data discussions?
I hope that my legal and human rights background will help generate discussion, collaborative spaces and policy recommendations regarding digital rights. There are diverse advances, regulations and debates that are taking place, and as an organization we must understand and investigate how open data interacts with these issues. We need to find evidence to achieve a harmonious coexistence between open data and respect for privacy. We need to discuss different models of governance, understand advances in data and artificial intelligence, and what this means for people, among other pressing topics.
As a Research Manager, I’m going to support the organization’s work by coordinating and conducting policy and data research, with a special focus on data rights and its intersection with human rights perspectives. I will also provide guidance on ODC’s project delivery and strategy, informing the team of the latest developments in open data and ODC’s core themes.
We, as an open data community, have come from an intense journey in terms of institutionalizing open data. We have a network of actors that collaborate in this regard. In addition to deepening this path, I think the biggest challenge is in the use and reuse of this data, and in the importance it has to address public policy challenges in the current global context (as evidenced, for example, by the COVID19 crisis). It seems to me that the ODC has understood this perfectly, focusing its strategy on relevant thematic axes: anti-corruption, climate action and pay equity. My goal will be to provide insights on these agendas to scale them and continue achieving high quality projects.
3. Share your vision: What does the world’s future look like with open data fully implemented and integrated?
A future with open data fully implemented and integrated is a better future in different ways. I believe that through open data we are gonna be able to deliver a positive impact in the improvement of public processes (with interoperability, the internal processes of the public administration -the part of open government that is not at sight- would work better, avoiding duplication of tasks and efforts and making a more efficient use of public resources.)
I also believe that this would improve the public services delivery, and, in consequence, the citizens’ quality of life. In addition, people will be able to use the data to generate economic value through entrepreneurship. Last but not least, open data is essential to make governments accountable about topics that are essential in this century (for example, action for climate change). Trust is an essential value for a healthy society’s functioning.
4. Do you have a favourite open data project or initiative or one that you encountered recently that left an impression on you?
I think a key point in this path is to never forget who the final recipient of the open data initiatives is: the citizen. With this in mind, I don’t have a favorite open data project, but I have a type of project that I especially like: the ones that close the feedback loop: the government opens information and participatory instances; society gives its feedback (a suggestion, a product, etc.); and the government uses these inputs to improve its public policies. There are many great examples: 1) open government action plans on sectorial topics like sexual health or housing, where government opens crucial data; the academy or civil society organizations takes the data and creates applications or platforms; and the users give feedback to the government for them to improve the services. 2) The hackathons or civic challenges, where governments open up information and citizens develop a public policy solution with that data (the “Guatemala Challenge on public finance” or the “Uruguay Open Climate Data contest”, both projects developed with the help of ODC).
5. One last one — a fun one: If you were to write a movie or book with open data at its centre, what would it be called?
It would be called “Eternal sunshine of the Open Data Principles”. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a movie I love, and I love its name. I think that the 6 key principles of open data are the basic standard that should always last. :)