Enigma Voyager: Exploring Open Data in Buenos Aires


For the past few weeks, five of us at Enigma have been WFA. As in, Working from Argentina. We just returned to NYC from the inaugural Enigma Voyager. What is Voyager, you ask? It is two and a half weeks of immersion into local business, government, and culture — this time in Buenos Aires — as part of a new program aimed at exploring approaches to public data in various geographies.

With an art-filled Airbnb as our home base, we, the Voyagers, held (mostly) regular work hours and designed a curriculum that had us connecting with local technology leaders, journalists, non-profits and members of government. We learned about the range of Buenos Aires’ open data community — and the range of the food Argentina has to offer, from asado and alfajores to empanadas and medialunas too.

Voyagers Tshirts

Photo by Vicky Polak @vickypolak

Abe Rubenstein, Stephanie Spiegel, Kelvin Chan, Eve Ahearn and John Barker

The Voyager crew spans five different teams at Enigma, from engineering to commercial, with each member bringing distinct personal and professional backgrounds to the group. That mix was critical. We each brought questions to our meetings informed by our prior experiences and roles at Enigma - and learned a lot of odd facts about each other over dinner afterwards. There are things you only get around to asking someone after a fifth dinner in a row. And it’s easier to engage deeply with the Argentine Ministry of Health’s data practices if you have an expert in the room familiar with the comparative data landscape in the US. We’ve returned to New York not only with new and different ideas about open data but also with a deeper connection to each other — and lots of ideas for projects to collaborate on in the future.

Voyager provides a roadmap for how we might expand our global data reach — and how we can build new datasets where government sources are lacking. Hearing surprised reactions to processes we took for granted also gave us a new perspective on the data we work with every day. Stay tuned for a full write up on our insights. In the meantime, here’s a recap of (a few of) our adventures and memorable interactions with the public data community in Buenos Aires.

Sociopublico Pub

Sociopúblico // We stopped by a local brewery to chat with Sociopúblico, an organization that helped build the City of BA's Open Data Dashboard. Our meeting with the team sparked an idea for a fun collaboration comparing our cities’ non-emergency municipal service request data (3-1-1 in New York; 1-4-7 in Buenos Aires).  Stay tuned.

Properati // Our new friends at Properati hosted us for an amazing asado in a beautiful clearing in their office. The real estate data company uses open data heavily and is notable for their engaging data-oriented blog posts on the real estate markets they operate in (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay). They certainly inspired us to rethink the way we tell stories with Enigma’s data. Simple narratives can make a big impact.

Gov Pres 2

City Government of Buenos Aires // Perhaps one of the most exciting events of our trip was the opportunity to present some of our past and current work with open data to the City of Buenos Aires — a first time for all of us giving a talk with simultaneous translation. It was truly inspiring to meet with people directly involved in the opening of Buenos Aires civic data and learn from their experiences.

Labgcba Team

Enigma meets the @LABgcba Team

Ministry of Modernization // Following our presentation with the city, we met with part of the Ministry of Modernization to get a sneak peek of the new and improved City of Buenos Aires open data portal. Later in the trip, we met with their entire team and shared ideas on civic engagement around public data.

Asociación por los Derechos Civiles // Our medialuna meeting with Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, an NGO that works on civil liberty issues, freedom of expression, privacy, and access to public information gave us an important new perspective on ethics in data work and the balance between transparency and privacy.

7Puentes // After a working lunch with one of the co-founders, we were intrigued by the similarities between 7Puentes and Enigma in the data/tech space.

Kelvin Museum

Outside of the meetings, we also did a lot of exploring - spending a number of afternoons at art museums around Buenos Aires and even taking a trip via ferry boat to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay to check out the cobblestone streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rooftop Party

To bring together all the people we met along the way (and to try our hand at asado), we ended the trip by hosting a party on our apartment roof and inviting the people we met along the way.

P.S. Want to take part in our next Voyager trip? We're hiring.