"Wiki" Democracy Begins In Argentina

Citizens analyze the official documents of the primary election, and they are finding irregularities. First drafts of transparency, open government and the power to work a lot with very little data.

Last Sunday, Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner won the country's first national primary election. She garnered 50% of the votes, 38 percentage points ahead of her closest rival, Ricardo Alfonsín.

While politicians and analysts publish all sorts of interpretations of the results in the media, a group of citizens are changing the course of the history of democracy in Argentina through the website Wikivotos.org, which they are using to research and publish irregularities in the vote count.

The proposal is simple and powerful: visit the official election site www.primarias2011.gob.ar, download the polling records for the entire country and analyse the information. If you find any data that has been wrongly processed, report it.

People are finding multiple documents with shoddy accounts, wrong numbers, missing signatures and other formal errors.

This kind of citizen audit is unprecedented in Argentina. It is one of the first exercises of collaborative work with the limited public data made available by the Government on the Internet.

Many of Argentina's politicians are using Twitter and social networks for electoral purposes. But little is said, and less is done, to push forward open government and access to open data. Perhaps Wikivotos.org is the first step toward a democracy that harnesses the benefits of technology and social collaboration made possible by the Internet.

This first step is an indisputable merit of citizens. Many expect the Government to learn from this experience and promote citizen participation and the transparency and availability of public information.