In the years after Hurricane Maria there has been a sharp increase in investigative journalism in Puerto Rico. Most of these investigations have been around questionable contracts awarded by different government entities and officials. We've used Python and Django to create a tool that consumes an unwieldy government site to make this data more accessible to journalist and citizens.
In the two years after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico there has been a sharp increase in investigative journalism on the island. Most of these investigations have been around questionable contracts awarded by different government entities and officials in Puerto Rico. No-bid contracts like the ones award to White Fish and later to Cobra Acquisitions have generated national outrage. Lack of transparency, costly mismanagement, and abuse of power can be found throughout.
The Office of the Comptroller of Puerto Rico has built a tool that lets you search and download contract documents (after they’ve been redacted of sensitive information). While it serves its purpose of making this information available, the tool does not permit any mass data analysis or download. In less than a week we were able to release a very early version of our tool to improve this.
Our goal was to present a "better" way to search and use this data, create a sustainable project that could be easily used, while also keeping effort and cost to a minimum. For all these reasons we landed on using Python and Django. Django and the ecosystem around it presents an amazing opportunity to minimize effort and cost for a civic tech project while providing a robust way to manage the processes and data of a project like ContratosPR. Django's admin give use a central place to glance which contract documents need to be requested, OCR'ed, and provides the tools to execute the request process. All of this in combination with great docs and an amazing community made them a clear choice.
Froilán Irizarry is a developer, community builder, and recovering entrepreneur. He’s worked in a number of industries in both private and public sectors. Over the last five years, he’s helped organize a number of tech communities and events, including Code 4 Puerto Rico, Fullstack Nights, PyCaribbean 2017, and the Maria Tech Brigade. During his time in Washington, DC, he worked with the U.S. Digital Service, was the tech lead for Code.gov, and joined GitHub where he now helps US federal agencies use the platform to improve their code reuse and software delivery.