Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.
Vittorio Alvino is the founder of Open Polis -- an independent organization that promotes transparency and the democratic participation of Italian citizens by developing and implementing projects to enable free access to public information on political candidates, elected representatives and legislative activity. Vittorio can be reached at email@example.com
With Open Parlamento we wanted to tear down the wall between the Italian people and the institutions that govern the country by publishing and sharing all relevant information on the activity of the Italian parliament. When the project began in 2009, our organization was the first to publish data about parliamentary attendance and details about each voting session. Although we do not always succeed, our goal is to reach the everyday citizen with simplified and comprehensible information about what happens in the Parliament and offer some interpretation - based on data - of politicians’ behaviours and choices.
Sadly, the political debate in Italy in recent years has progressively deteriorated. Parties and institutions have lost much of their credibility and the focus of the general public has shifted towards scandals and corruption. In the meantime, far away from the center of attention, economic and political interest are at stake.
Through the simple use of parliamentary data, we want to empower citizens by giving them the chance to create and support their own political opinion. For this reason, the data needs to be elaborated graphically, making it easier to understand. The same information is also analyzed by our staff in order to find the “news” behind the data. All of our work is then shared via web, social media and Italy’s main news outlets. Interestingly enough, at times our users, besides national media, are the first to use the data from Open Parlamento as their source for graphic elaborations, articles, tweets and reports.
The obstacles in this field of work are many, but things have gotten better in recent times. Nonetheless, much still needs to be done in order to improve the process by which data are updated and collected. Due to incomplete and rarely updated open data, we’ve been forced to develop programs that on a daily basis scrape thousands of web pages from the sites of the Italian Parliament.