CoST releases open-source repository: Interview with Evelyn Hernandez

Today CoST publishes its CoST GitHub Repository, host of open-source tools developed by CoST members for free use by the data community. The community can also contribute their tools to the system, helping to further improvements to the infrastructure sector worldwide. We speak with the repository lead, Evelyn Hernandez who outlines more.

1. How important is a system like the CoST repository to Covid-19 build back?

The CoST repository plays a key role in improving the design and implementation of infrastructure disclosure e-platforms and other supportive tools.

Collecting and analysing data and information quickly is crucial for managing any crisis, and during the response to Covid-19 many transparency safeguards were side-lined as a result of ‘emergency procedures’. We believe that technology can drive transparency and accountability and so by publishing the repository, CoST consolidates its commitment to building back better and differently. Specifically, technology can support better decision-making processes around healthcare construction and future infrastructure investment which will be key to economic recovery. Therefore, there is no better time to share our tools with others, to further improve them and allow for their free use by others.

2. Importantly, the repository hosts the award-winning SISOCS and SISOCS PPPs data disclosure platforms. Why are these platforms valuable for CoST members and the community?

SISOCS is a disclosure tool for traditionally procured infrastructure projects developed by the Government of Honduras and CoST Honduras between 2013 and 2014. Originally intended for use by public entities in the transport sector, it has evolved over time and undergone modifications so that it can be used across sub-sectors and by a wide range of entities embedded in Honduras’ Central Government and National Public Enterprises. Those interested in using SISOCS can be rest assured that it has been robustly used and adapted over the years. And the current version, SISOCS v.3.0 is particularly valuable for our members as it complies with our Open Contracting for Infrastructure Data Standard (OC4IDS), allowing citizens access to open infrastructure data.

SISOCS PPPs is a digital disclosure tool for public-private partnership (PPPs) infrastructure projects developed by the Government of Honduras, the World Bank and CoST Honduras between 2017 and 2018. Public entities overseeing PPPs use the system to disclose data. The open-source code is valuable for CoST members (and others) because of the interest in many countries in increasing PPP investment in response to the economic crisis, and the need for citizens to help ensure such investment is subject to scrutiny. To facilitate access to open data and information, the system complies with the World Bank Disclosure Framework for PPPs, the CoST Infrastructure Data Standard, and the PPP Extension of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS).

3. In practical terms, how easy is it for users to add and adapt tools within the repository?

The repository includes useful guidance to help users understand more about the repository and how to use it. It includes a standard template for those wishing to contribute tools which details how to install them. This also includes details on aspects relevant to each context such as architectural design as well as useful references for developers. Descriptions of each tool in English and Spanish can also be found when clicking on the tool in question, and users can email any questions to us.

4. What recommendations do you have for users of the tools?

While using the CoST repository it is important to appoint a good developer who is familiar with open-source codes.

We also recommend that users contribute their improvements to the tools found within. In the overview of each tool there is a section on how to contribute if a new functionality is added or if changes are made that add value to the tool. Contributors can also make a “pull request”, documenting their proposed changes and when they do so, the contributor name will be registered in the list of attributions.

5. CoST welcomes partners to contribute their tools to the repository. What tools would you like to see added in the future?

We would like to see more contributions from a range of geographical regions and we particularly welcome analytical dashboards (tools which give a clear narrative to the disclosed data) alongside details on how they are used and are of value to stakeholders such as the private sector, civil society and the media. This will help to create an understanding of the social value of open data and the varied interests relevant to each tool of these diverse stakeholders.

6. Finally, what other CoST tools can users expect to see in the repository over the next year?

In the first instance we hope to support a CoST member in both Asia and Africa to contribute a newly developed infrastructure disclosure platform and an analytical tool. This will ensure the repository covers tools from across Latin America, Asia and Africa to encourage greater uptake. This is important as we often find there is a regional ‘ripple effect’ in the uptake of CoST tools and approach, but that in no way means tools from one region are not relevant to another. Indeed, as the CoST experience shows, members from vastly different contexts from Asia to Africa to Latin America have often learnt and adapted each other’s approaches to repeat success.

Useful links