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Emerging Impacts in Open Data in the Judiciary Branches in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay

TitleEmerging Impacts in Open Data in the Judiciary Branches in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsElena, Sandra, Aquilino Natalia, and Riviére Ana Pichón
Date Published05/2014
CityBuenos Aires, Argentina

The majority of Open Government Data (OGD) initiatives around the world have focussed on the executive branches of government, exploring financial, infrastructure and administrative datasets. A smaller number have looked at legislative open data. However, open data in the judicial branch has gone relatively unexplored. In this study, CIPPEC explore the the openness of judiciary branch data and it’s impact through a comparative study across three Latin American countries. The study used a layered mixed-method exploratory design, triangulating findings from a technical assessment of data judiciary websites, interviews with key informants and field-work. The study worked through descriptive, diagnostic, analytical and prospective phases, in order to generate robust policy-relevant recommendations.

The design and implementation of an open data policy is fundamental for the judiciary branches for at least three reasons: (i) Access to information is a human right, recognized by Constitutions, international treatise and laws, as well as by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human rights, and open data is useful tool for the publication of information; (ii) access to data allows citizens to monitor the judiciary branch and encourages accountability by the judiciary; and (iii) from the point of view of the performance of the judiciary and policy design, the generation, compilation and availability of data in a format that can be used and re-used enables decisions to be taken to improve the design of public policies for the judiciary based on evidence. However, in Latin America the judicial branch appears to have been the least willing part of government to adopt open data practices.

This study assessed the availability, accessibility, sustainability, re-usability and relevance of a number of different kinds of judiciary data in each country, including budget allocations, performance statistics, court rulings, selection and removal of magistrates, and hiring and personnel details. Chile scored highest on this assessment, although often data was only available in Excel format rather than fully non-proprietary formats. The terms under which judiciary data in Chile was provided also inhibit re-use, as they only permit data use of ‘personal or academic purposes’, excluding commercial intermediaries for working with the data. Although lacking a law on Access to Information, Argentina scored second place, due to the availability of data, and a strong awareness of open data amongst both data supplier and users. However, the use of scanned PDFs to distribute some information is a practice which makes re-use of data technically challenging. Survey results for Uruguay delivered the lowest score of the three countries, partially because of low awareness of open data, and due to extensive use of scanned print-outs to share data, and the absence of key court statistics.

The users of judicial information come from both inside and outside of government. In Argentina, an analysis of gender policies drew upon charts and visual aids generated with data on the internal composition of courts and compiled by the Office for Women of the Supreme Court of Justice. Academics form an important user community for judicial data: using it to both improve research and education, and engaging in the creation of data visualisations that highlight key issues such as concurrence of votes in the Supreme Court, or analysis that contrasts facts on homicide rates drawn from court data with other aggregate data sources and public perceptions. The media are not currently major users of data when writing about court matters, but there are some indications of increasing data analysis in journalism. Uses of open data in the judicial context may draw upon a number of mechanisms to create change: litigation (as in the case of a recent action by CIPPEC to secure access to key databases on subsidies granted by the Ministry for Social Development), facilitating citizen engagement (for example, through transactional websites that enable citizens to interact with government), and disseminating information to create public pressure (as in the case of media reporting and investigative reporting). Although at the moment there have only been a few case studies or best practice report on how data is being used, it is important to recognise that such benefits at a micro-level point to where macro-level change and impact may occur.

In summary:

All three countries reviews have created a suitable environment for the creation of judiciary open data policies, but nevertheless do not yet comply with all the requirements of open data in their information provision.

At present, only transparency outcomes of judiciary open data can be strongly observed. Accountability, innovation and economic development, and inclusion and empowerment outcomes were not located. Proactive data publication has primarily taken place because of a belief in the obligation to make the justice service more transparent, rather than for reasons of efficiency, leading to a neglect of opportunities to use data systematically for the design of quality judicial policies.

There are substantial opportunities to improve the policy and legal frameworks for open judicial data, and the implementation of policies (in terms of the depth, frequency and formats of datasets) through creating spaces for collaboration between civil society and the Judiciary branch, at both policy and technology levels. Regular working spaces where potential data users, intermediaries and suppliers can interact are important to ensure data reaches end-users such as media, NGOs and Universities.

Case study - CIPPEC.pdf1.49 MB