Each day, there are more data and digital sources—and at the same time, less clarity—about how money is flowing around the globe.
Fortunately, there is a growing army of nerds willing to wrangle the data and see how they answer important questions that affect us all. These questions range from "Who is buying your vote?" to "How are governments spending the money we pay in taxes?"
We have been experimenting with gathering nerds who want to analyze the flow of currency at Hacks/Hackers Latin America meetups. Now, to contribute further and even more collaboratively to this work, Hacks/Hackers has organized a regional super hackathon, called The Money Trail (La Ruta del dinero), thanks to the support of Knight Mozilla Open News, ICFJ and the World Bank Institute.
The hackathon will take place simultaneously in 14 cities (13 in Latin America plus Miami). Check out the site, find one near you, register, and join us on June 7. We hope this day (which is also “Journalists Day” in Argentina) will mark a turning point in the way news media cover the money trail. If we follow the money, follow its owners, and follow their influence, we’ll often find a compelling story that the public needs to hear.
At the hackathon, participants will create projects that track the flow of money from place to place. There will be incentives for participants: up to five projects will win US$2,000, and one project can take home a US$10,000 prize, provided by HacksLabs.org, the first data journalism accelerator in Latin America.
The hackathon will build on and be inspired by some of the great money-tracking projects taking shape in the region and around the world, such as VozData, a project of the newspaper La Nación (Argentina) that analyzes Argentine senate spending. The African project Where My Money Dey? examines whether mining companies in Ghana actually return 3 percent of their profits to residents, as required by law. And in the European Union, the site Farmsubsidy.org intends to shine a light on the 55 billion euros spent on farm subsidies.
Austerity audit, a Financial Times project, looks at the British benefits system’s declining profits and the subsequent impact on local economies. OpenSpending features 747 data sets from 67 countries and tries to uncover what governments do with taxpayer money.
Other projects are examining the private sector and corporations. Open Corporate, for example, has information on 70 million private businesses around the globe. Journalist Giannina Segnini’s team in Costa Rica worked last year on OffShore Leaks, a database with information on offshore accounts that is now available to anyone around the world. In Argentina, a Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires team led by Sergio Sorín analyzed cases of financial repression during Argentina’s dictatorship, using reports produced by the country’s National Securities Commission.
Following the money trail is rarely an easy journey, but what you find along the way makes the trip worthwhile.
Knight International Journalism Fellow Mariano Blejman is an editor and media entrepreneur specializing in data-driven journalism.
This post was originally written in Spanish and translated into English by Jessica Weiss.