Date Published: April 30, 2018, 1:02 p.m.
atio Digital [‘Digital Schoolyard’] is an initiative led by Sao Paulo City Department of Education which implements an open government policy through three interconnected components: (i) Transparency and Open Data; (ii) Government and Society Collaboration and (iii) Technological Innovation. It was launched in April 2017 in alliance with UNESCO in Brazil.At the 1-year mark, Patio Digital has managed to significantly increase the levels of active transparency of the education policies, making this Department the first in the open data portal rank in the City Hall. Citizens are engaged in all the open data life cycle, from developing a collaborative Open Data Plan to prototyping and building tools with open source community support. Open data subjects include transportation, childcare center openings, evaluation, infrastructure and other topics of interest. With its ‘Open Innovation Cycle’, Patio Digital engages different actors in the process of creating new digital services and tools designed for and by families, students, teachers. The first completed Cycle delivered a transparency platform for schools’ meals, where families and students can check planned menus – an unprecedent information disclosure in the Brazilian landscape. The process also resulted in the first chat bot of the City Hall, “Edu Bot”, which provides information to families. It applies to all the city territory, at municipal level.Approximately 1 million enrolled students and their families and 60,000 teachers will be impacted by the project.
Starting date: 17/04/2017
Ending date: ongoing
Patio Digital [‘Digital Schoolyard’] was launched in April 2017 as an “Open Government Policy” published by Sao Paulo City Education Department (Ordinance 3.786 de 17 de abril de 2017). Its declared objective is to articulate the sectors of technology of information and communication, universities, private sector and civil society in the promotion of open data, digital services and technological innovation in public education policies.
It has a Governance Committee composed by four strategic areas of the Department: Office of Active Transparency and Internal Control – COTAC; Office of Technology of Information and Communication – COTIC; Office of Educational Information – CIEDU and Office of Communications – ASCOM. It also counts with partners such as UNESCO in Brazil, which already had a broader Cooperation Agreement with the Education Department and supports the initiative since its inception.
Patio Digital has three pillars: (i) Transparency and Open Data; (ii) Government and Society Collaboration and (iii) Technological Innovation. Basic guidelines and some actions for each of them were described at the Ordinance.
(i) Transparency and Open Data:
(a) “to implement the Annual Open Data and Transparency Plan of the Education Department”. Despite the advances in the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act in the past five years, public bodies in subnational levels in Brazil are still not obliged to publish open datasets and instruments such as Open Data Plans, to indicate the commitment to opening data processes. With this initiative, Patio Digital was the first municipal body to create and publish this instrument, made in a participatory basis to guarantee the priorities of opening data match with citizens demands. After 10 months, the 1st Plan is 85% completed and the Department has been already promoting open meetups to evaluate it, as well as to start developing the 2nd Plan. It is important to mention an enabling project for the success of this strategy: the setup of a data infrastructure based on open source software and implemented within only three months, with the cooperation (with no costs) of a partner from civil society (Lemann Foundation);
(b) “building dashboards and other transparency strategies” is another action indicated by this ordinance to achieve non-specialist users and, indeed, thematic pages and dashboards have been released to respond to this challenge.
(ii) Government and Society Collaboration: this pillar indicates actions such as
(a) “creation of a Cooperation Program with universities and research centers”, which is being structured following Open Science principles;
(b) “Open Meetups” related to education and technologies, a community with more than 670 people (and counting) engaged;
(c) “Public consultations and surveys”.
(iii) Technological Innovation:
(a) the ‘House of Patio Digital’, an open space for meetups, collaborative work and opportunities for the development of projects with the education & technology ecosystem, where all the meetups and hackathon-style events are being held;
(b) “release of challenges”, open calls for presentation of ideas;
(c) “Plan for Technology of Information and Communication” including open and collaborative technologies;
(d) “Opening the Source Code” of applications and systems of the Department, under open licenses.
One of the methodologies developed in the context of this policy is the Patio Digital’s Open Innovation Cycle, which applies tools and strategies for collaborative development of meaningful apps for the educational community. The Cycle has 4 steps: 1) Collaborative Prototyping, with open meetups and hands-on workshops; 2) Open Call, with immersion processes; 3) Open Development, using open source tools and 4) Sharing the Solutions, so that other cities and public bodies can adopt or customize them.
There are two main differences from ‘Patio Digital’s’ Open Innovation Cycle to other hackathon-style initiatives. Firstly, by the end of the process, teams that were selected with the best prototype are given the opportunity to implement the solution inside the Department, as contractors. Secondly, the ‘users’ – both managers and school community – are involved in the immersion (prototyping sprints) efforts.
For the first year of implementation, the achievements of the initiative were made possible with the current budget and resources of the Department – people, physical space and IT infrastructure. Besides that, around $60,000 were invested in the framework of UNESCO Cooperation Agreement.
For the second year, more resources have been allocated for the release of Open Calls to research centers and other innovation cycles, so an amount of around $350,000 is going to be invested with UNESCO alliance. The Program also released an Open Call asking for donations from the private sector and individuals.
Three ‘Open Innovation Cycles’ were launch since Patio’s inception: transparency of meals in schools, school transportation/mapping of physical barriers between schools and students’ residence, and an Open Educational Resources Platform for the implementation of the City’s new curriculum.
The first of them is already completed: ‘Prato Aberto’ [Open Plate], a transparency platform for schools’ meals, where families and students can check planned menus. Launched in December 2017, is being gradually disseminated in the schools’ network.
The main difficulties are related to the lack or fragility of regulation regarding innovation and the collaborative relation between public bodies and civil society – specially in terms of contracting and rewarding open solutions. In this sense, third parties (alliances with civil society and agencies) are facilitators.
Other challenges relate to absorbing, maintaining and sustaining new technologies in the Department’s infrastructure. We have been working in ways of transferring knowledge from civil society experts to government specialists.
d. Folha de S. Paulo – “Girls help to create app to monitor school meals”: http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2017/09/1919385-alunas-da-6-serie-ajudam-a-criar-aplicativo-de-merenda-em-sp.shtml
e. Open Plate presented as a good practice to fight corruption: https://www.caindonobrasil.com.br/blog/programa-merenda-escolar-apresenta-problemas/