@colabora_bot is a robot created by the brazilian vehicle of open data and government transparency Colaboradados. @colabora_bot is the interlocutor of a project of verification of the Brazilian governmental transparency. Through a large data base with all transparency portals belonging to Brazilian governmental agencies, the robot monitors which of these portals have been presenting downtime issues or have been deleted. On Twitter and Mastodon, he warns his followers, and also the government agency responsible for the site, that the government information and warns the bodies of the irregularity.
As an open source project, the initiative becomes 100% transparent and replicable. Nevertheless, by being a collaborative effort, this project can make be approached by anyone in the civil society. In this manner we can say that we achieved success every time someone inputs a new portal for us to keep checking, or makes a request on our codes that makes the robot more efficient. Success, for us, is to keep the society as the guardians of transparency. @colabora_bot is a monitoring tool for Brazilian government transparency. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that public data under the administration of the Brazilian government add up without prior notice. Journalists, researchers and those who cherish government transparency are often confronted with the lack of preparation of public bodies in the delivery of public information. @colabora_bot is not only a monitoring tool for society, but also for the enforcement agencies of the Law that governs access to public data. Its innovation is precisely this: to be an informational and also research tool, in search of democratization and the advance in Brazilian governmental transparency.
@colabora_bot is developed in Python and its data is collected and aggregated in an Google Sheets. With the help of a collaborative network of people that submit links of governmental transparency portals, Colaboradados feeds a database of links to the robot so it can do its work. @colabora_bot then accesses each URL of the database and finds out if they are online. If some of the government portals are not accessible at the moment, @colabora_bot reaches out to its followers on their Twitter profile and Mastodon social network, asking them to mention the agents responsible for administering the sites for clarification. On a separated database, @colabora_bot logs each of the failed attempts. In this way, the bot produces its own database so that it can be accessed by journalists, the government and society in general to analyse the data.
What was the hardest part of this project?
It’s not a simple task to specify one such thing. Various parts of the project were considered a challenge of its own. If I have to choose only one, though, I’d elect the difficulty to deal with Twitter’s platform in order to notify the municipalities responsible for keeping the transparency portal online. In various occasions we were suspended without a prior notice and clear reasoning and we would only could guess what we did to receive this treatment. The problem-solving part of this challenge, without knowing exactly what “is” the problem was very difficult. We had – in a example – to change our code establishing a various frequency of activity, and in another cases we had to change how we reached to the profiles responsible. So, in order to maintaining our program working, we had to deal with a bug we weren’t responsible to and neither knew what it was causing it, really.
What can others learn from this project?
We hope that others can learn that we have more power to inspect public power than ever before. Only one person can, in a matter of fact, with the help of a computer and a little bit of knowledge, perform the same task of checking the availability of such an important service as the governmental transparency websites as would an entire team of employees in another time.