I had the chance to attend for the first time Abrelatam/ConDatos, the meeting point for the Latin America data community in late September. This is where activists, public officials, researchers and those interested in using quality data converge.
Abrelatam takes the form of an unconference where the agenda is built at the moment with the contributions of all those present, while ConDatos is the main conference in which experiences and learning are exposed through panels and conversations.
This year, the event was built around 16 themes and organized in 4 blocks. Some of the themes included gender data, inclusion and data, civic technology, artificial intelligence, and Open State. Beyond learning a lot about these themes, in this blog I would like to reflect on three “people-centred” reasons why I believe Abrelatam/ConDatos is a must-attend event for any data person who speaks/understands Spanish:
You get to know what MANY people think about hot data themes in a very short period of time. Unlike a panel where you listen to presentations, Abre-Latam allows anybody present in the group discussion to express their concerns, opinions and ideas about the theme at hand. It is a truly democratic exercise where every person´s voice counts, regardless of their precedence and hierarchy in the organization they work for.
I was impressed by the number of people and projects from so many different countries I met (and found interesting) in only 20 minutes. It was a snapshot of the diversity of the region´s progress in terms of data production, openness and use with the common cross-regional need: every person demanding more and better data. Participants from Mexico — a country with the first representative survey that measures gender identity and sexual orientation — and activists in El Salvador — where there is no single data on gender identity — were all calling for more gender-disaggregated data.
2. The unstructured format of the event leaves you with much room (physical and time) for personal interactions. You get to know participants’ personal stories which are as enlightening as any fancy data project. It so happened that during the registration process, I met Luis from Santo Domingo who was nervous because he was managing his baby´s care at the conference. He mentioned how difficult it was for him to raise his 3-month-old alone and even further, having his request for parental leave denied — which is not often considered for men.
We still have a long way to go in terms of equality and rights to care, even in the progressive civil society/data ecosystem. Practise what you preach!
3. The third reason to attend Abrelatam is the possibility to make new quality friends. I was queuing for lunch on the first day when I met Gabriela, a Brazilian sociologist, working as an Independent Reviewer for the Open Government Partnership. We were discussing the religious movement supporting Bolsonaro when we realized that both of us were Jewish and had spent the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) away from our families. We observed that it was not very appropriate to have the conference take place over a holy day for a big community. If we want to have a truly open and inclusive America, we must consider major religious events.
Gabriela and I attended many other talks together during the conference, and since then have been sharing books & movie suggestions and identifying more people we know in common in this big little town that our world is.
A key takeaway I would like to highlight: while meetings for data/open government professionals empower all of us who work for open political systems and fair societies, we need to do more, better and probably different. Data presented at the conference showed that citizens are not trusting in governments and public institutions to improve their lives and that open data is not being used enough for policy change. I hope we take all the inspiration we gained from the event into projects that do make a real difference and with a gender perspective.
I had a great time at Abrelatam/ConDatos and also at América Abierta where we hosted a session discussing the synergies between the open government and regional gender agendas (I will expand on this in a future blog).
The next Abrelatam/ConDatos will take place in November 2023 in Uruguay, the same country where it was born 10 years ago. I encourage you to attend!