The seismograph’s oddyssey and transparency for show

C. Catalan

Between May 2013 and March 2015 at we daily downloaded a copy of a file published by the autonomous government of Generalitat de Catalunya. Its name was Organization Chart, Organization Nodes and People in Charge. They created it and updated it daily on their  Open Data Portal.

The file listed about eight thousand organization nodes and the names of the people in charge of them. Using this information, comparing each file to the one published the day before, we published their weekly changes on a website we called the  Generalitat seismograph  and we automatically updated our  data visualitzacions of each Departament , with which we set up this project.

For two years, we registered and published daily changes in the structure of the Catalan Government and Public Administration.

We were expecting great changes last spring and this summer, given the interesting period of political change we are immersed in at the moment.

However, last April, just before the seismograph was selected to participate in the international workshop Visualizar15 at MediaLab Prado to be further developed,  the seismograph stopped working: first, there was a brief change of location (it was updated on a different URL) and then the updating process simply came to a halt.

Therefore, surprised at this,  we contacted the Open Data government section to ask what was happening to the file after two years of daily updating. This was their answer on 5 May:

“As we already told you, we are working to produce and offer the file Organization Chart, Organization Nodes and People in Charge regularly again.  But we don’t know when this will be possible. Therefore, we believe it is appropriate to stop publishing it. We will keep you posted about this when we have more information.”

Since then, we have sent them a few messages via email and twitter but there hasn’t been any satisfactory reply.

The seismograph allowed us to register the birth of the Generalitat’s Transparency Policies Programme, responsible for giving access to public information. It was  officially set up in December 2013, under the leadership of former magistrate Núria Bassols.

Our seismograph tool registered the establishment of two Transparency Commissions, one technical, one interdepartmental, in February 2015, more than a year later. Simultaneously, the  Programme changed its name to Comissionat  and the area of Transparency was transferred from the Departament of Presidency to the Departament of Governance.  “This implies loss of importance,” our Generalitat sources said.

As there didn’t seem to be enought people working for transparency at the Generalitat, the Government also appointed Gemma Calvet, Member of Parliament for Catalonia’s Republican Left Esquerra as their transparency  consultant last March.

Since last May we are also in touch with their parliamentary group and we have expressed to them our concern about this matter. On  25 June they wrote to us to let us know they were writing to the Comissionat and also Vicepresidency, and an answer is still pending.

We want the Generalitat to publish the Organization Chart file again:

1- to continue offering citizens information about changes in the  structure of our government.

2- because the amount of information we are storing can be very useful for future political science research.

Since the “unpublishing” of  the file, we have been working to create it ourselves by using our limited resources. We have encountered several difficulties which we will refer to in another post soon. Meanwhile, have a good summer!

Photo: The Kubrick rooms, by Torley