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Hackers Are on the Money Trail

[Links are to Spanish-language pages except where noted otherwise.]

This is not about hackers making millions of dollars, although that would not be a bad thing. No, it is about a recent initiative by Hacks/Hackers [en], a Latin American network that brings together coders and journalists to explore how technology can be exploited to filter information and, at the same time, how that information can be used to tell stories.

ruta del dinero

[The Money Trail: 13 thriving cities in Latin America + Miami. Hundreds of Latin American citizens making history together, an opportunity to accelerate open data projects and attend “Media Party 2014”. Saturday, June 7, 2014.]

According to the Buenos Aires chapter:

[...] convocamos al primer hackatón regional, un hackday en distintas ciudades de América Latina el mismo día, con una temática común: “La ruta del dinero” para explorar cuáles son los destinos de los fondos públicos en nuestros países, cuáles son las relaciones entre ellos , cuál es el volumen de la ayuda internacional y a dónde se dirige, etc.

El propósito de esta actividad es doble: por un lado, fomentar la transparencia, la eficiencia en las cuentas públicas y la participación ciudadana en este ámbito; por el otro generar impacto dentro de las redacciones periodísticas y estimular la creación de equipos de noticias interactivos.

We are putting together the first regional hackathon, a simultaneous hack day in different cities across Latin America under the banner “The Money Trail”. We will be looking at where public funds are spent in our countries, what the relationship is between them, what volume of foreign aid is involved and where it all goes, etc.

The goal is twofold: on the one hand to encourage transparency, efficient management of public coffers, and citizen engagement and, on the other, to have an impact on what journalists write about and foster the creation of interactive news teams.

The event, which takes place Saturday, June 7, 2014, will bring together multidisciplinary teams from a host of local chapters of  Hacks/Hackers in cities such as Asunción, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Guatemala, La Paz, Lima, Mendoza, Mexico City, Miami, Montevideo, Rosario, San José, San Pablo and Santiago.

If helping fellow citizens by working towards greater transparency in the use of public funds were not enough of a reason to participate, there is the added incentive of prize money: five winning projects could be the recipients of US $2,000, and a grand prize worth US $10,000 will be awarded by HacksLabs.org, Latin America's first data journalism accelerator. 

 Writing [en] in ijnet, Mariano Blejman of HacksLabs says:

The hackathon will build on and be inspired by some of the great money-tracking projects taking shape in the region and around the world, such as VozData, a project of the newspaper La Nación (Argentina) that analyzes Argentine senate spending. The African project Where My Money Dey? examines whether mining companies in Ghana actually return 3 percent of their profits to residents, as required by law. And in the European Union, the site Farmsubsidy.org intends to shine a light on the 55 billion euros spent on farm subsidies.  

What's more, at Hacks/Hacker, if anyone feels the urge to organize a hackathon themselves but is not sure where to start, a handy guide is available in Spanish. Among the tips provided are the following:

El corazón de Hacks/Hackers es la comunidad de periodistas, pero el motor de funcionamiento es la comunidad hacker (programadores). Busca entre los periodistas conocidos, los más geeks, con ganas de cambiar la forma en la que trabajan los diarios por dentro. También los bloggers que quieren escribir sobre temas nuevos. Convence a estos periodistas para que publiquen información sobre el encuentro y le den valor al evento. Tener una red de periodistas interna es crucial para las actividades del grupo.

The heart of Hacks/Hackers is the community of journalists, but the motor that drives it is the community of coders. Search out well-known journalists, real geeks, those willing to change the way they work from the inside out. Bloggers too, who are willing to write about up-and-coming issues. Convince those journalists to publish stories about the event to help enhance its profile. Having a network of internal journalists is crucial for the activities of the group.

Participants can already start uploading their ideas to HackDash del evento. Poke around the site, and you just might stumble onto an inspiring idea for your own project!

Last but not least, the Follow the Money regional hackathon takes place under the auspices of Hacks/Hackers and is part of a comprehensive media innovation program supported by the International Center For Journalists, the Knight Foundation, Knight Mozilla Open News, PinLatam, and the World Bank Institute in Latin America. 

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