2020 Shortlist

Espacios públicos de Lima entregados a empresas equivalen a 79 campos de fútbol. Headline in English: Privatized public spaces in Lima equals to 79 football fields

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Peru

Organisation: Convoca.pe

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 5 Aug 2019

Credit: Research, reporting and data analysis: Luis Enrique Pérez Pinto, Web development and application: Anthony Atauqui and Elvis Rivera, Report editor: Milagros Salazar Herrera, Design: Jackeline Cárdenas

Project description:

In Lima, capital city of Peru, parks, beaches and other public spaces have been privatized by private companies, by the equivalent of 79 football fields. Through public information requests, I accessed official documents from 8 municipalities that proved that using concession contracts many private companies were in fact obtaining possession of intangible and non-transferable public spaces, between 1994 and 2018. This derived in various social conflicts, which affect thousands of citizens in the designated districts, as well as irregularities in contracts that reveal cases of alleged corruption.

Impact reached:

The research had a great impact on Lima’s political life. Many local governments decided to review the contracts and, in many cases, those reviews ended in complaints to the General Comptroller of the Republic, whom intervened and recommend the cancelation of the contracts due to the irregularities found.

Meanwhile, the academic community, specially of the architecture field, urban planning and social sciences, pronounced on these facts and began investigations on the legal gaps and irregularities found,  taking this research as a source. Currently, the Peruvian Congress is holding a debate about a public spaces bill, in order to correct the legal gap that has allowed this kind of contracts to occur for decades.

Many local media took interest on the matter, especially on the findings, considering that the case was shown to the public during local elections. Also, it has great impact on the architecture and urban planning faculties, where professors are using the report as an example for their students.

It is important to mention that the topic has gain importance during the last years but this is the first report that contains a detail chronicle of the unappropriated use of public spaces by private parties involving local authorities.

This report was finalist for the National Journalism Prize of Peru in 2019, in the category ‘Journalistic Innovation’.

Techniques/technologies used:

The web application ‘City in Concession’ (http://ciudadenconcesion.convoca.pe/aplicativo.html) that complements the report (http://ciudadenconcesion.convoca.pe/el-espacípublico-entregado-a-empresas. html) is the result of a great technological and research work that shows the user how local governments deliver public areas to private companies against the opinion of citizens, by using legal loops.

For research, we built a database on Google Spreadsheets with the obtained documentation from contracts between municipalities and private companies that agreed to the privatization of public space. This database includes the coordinates of each public space obtained with the Google Street Maps tool. In addition, to determine the magnitude of each affected area, the polygons of the free Google Earth tool has been used to obtain the approximate measurements of the privatized areas in square meters. This data is included in the data set.

A digital tool was developed with the information obtained, in order to show the situation of each privatized public space. Google Maps API was used to geolocate the affected parks beaches and stadiums through coordinate.

In addition, aerial photographs of the Peruvian Air Force and satellite photos of Google Earth were used to create an image gallery. Also, the Swiper slider tool was used in order to show the evolution of the impact of public space privatization trough the time.

Highcharts for Javascript was used to show the statistical findings, creating interactive charts to make the visualization of the report more accessible in the web application. Images, graphics and maps are included with specific information on each one of the 25 privatized areas showed on the study.

What was the hardest part of this project?

One of the most important difficulties in the process of investigation is the lack of transparency of the local authorities, specially about the concession contracts celebrated with private companies. The information is not shown on transparency portals or institutional webs. Because of that, in order to obtain each one of the documents that proves the irregular use of the public spaces, we need to send special written request.

In Peru, contracts between local governments and private companies in relation to public spaces, such as parks, beaches and stadiums, have been executed under different legal regulations, so they are not standardized. Therefore, we built a database to organize the most important information I found about the contracts, council agreements and addenda, which I obtained after the requests.

Another difficulty we had was identifying the size of the privatized public spaces that, in most cases, are not found in the contracts. To overcome these problems, we carry out the measurements using the free Google Earth tool to obtain the approximate measurements of the privatized areas in square meters. With the obtained information, a digital tool was designed in order to show the situation of each privatized public space.

What can others learn from this project?

This research allowed different approaches. By reading the paper and discovering the findings in the interactive visualization, citizens can learn how municipalities use various legal mechanisms to privatize public spaces and how to identify possible irregularities in these types of contracts. This investigation also turns relevant for lawyers and judges, and local authorities in order to avoid the social conflicts described.

Journalists can find in this research an interesting technique to build a database, based on physical documents that can be obtain through transparency mechanisms. Also, the research provide important  methodology to analyze databases and obtain periodic impact results.

Also, developers can learn to use Google Maps APIs to geolocate areas through coordinates found in Google Earth. They will also learn how to use Highcharts for Javascript optimally for its ease in configuring graphics in a web application. The research can also inspire the develop of new visualization forms using the digital tools provided, and also other investigations regarding public spaces. It is important to consider that the search engine registered 25 infrastructure projects in public spaces and include maps, aerial and satellite images and records of each project.


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