On December 19th, 2011 the Greek Parliament and the “special committee for accountability” led by Mr. Evaggelos Argiris, uploaded the ownership reports of all the MPs and MEPs for the year 2009 (economic year 2010). Despite the time lag and the delay in the name of accountability and transparency the official site of the Greek Parliament accommodated for the first time in Greek history data that according to the voted plan could raise awareness on the financial status of the elected public figures, thus allowing civic control and accountability. The plan for publishing the data and making it publicly accessible was massively advertised as a way to enter the digital era of data with useful benefits for the society derived from the ability to hold the politicians accountable. However, the original plan is completely different from the mere reality.
Initially it is quiet interesting to note that the cost for developing and maintaining the Parliament’s site according to the President’s statement is a total of 1,059,516.27 Euro (proof 1, proof 2). A rational mind should expect that a site that has cost to the Greek tax payer a respectable amount of money will be suitable to store a good sort of information while serving hundreds of users at the same time. This working hypothesis based upon the rationality that such an expensive site will be able to provide quality services to the users, seems to have been falsified.
When the ownership reports of the MPs and MEPs were uploaded the site went offline for most of the morning hours and was unable to serve the demand of many users who desired to hold access to the fresh information. (I managed to finally access the website at around 14.00 having refreshed it a hundred of times)
On top of the inability to respond to high demand adequately, the second surprise and disappointment that led to anger was caused by the format that the site engineers (?) chose for the information to be stored. Paradoxically all the reports were in Flash format. According to people who are aware of the internet customs, this is quiet unusual as today most of the textual information takes the form of html or at worst embedded pdf, types that are accessible by a wider audience and allow users to process the data more easily. (source) In contrast, the engineers of the site chose to provide the information in Flash that is actually a digital depiction of the printed document. This type is nonmanagable by spreadsheet or other data processing softwares.
Data analysts, citizens, journalists, academics will be unable to download the information, store it and potentially analyse it in order to produce useful results such as comparisons, trends etc.
Was the selection of the specific format just a random choice?
“It is forbidden to copy, publish, or partially publish the electronic ownership reports. Access to the data is only allowed through the portal of the Hellenic Parliament and only by technical tools that have been used for that purpose”
A) The stable link for the reports of ownership of the MPs and MEPs for the year 2010: http://www.hellenicparliament.gr/Organosi-kai-Leitourgia/epiropi-elegxou-ton-oikonomikon-ton-komaton-kai-ton-vouleftwn/Diloseis-Periousiakis-Katastasis-Oikonomikou-Etous-2010-Chrisi-2009/
D) An interesting comment (by Takis Bouyouris) I read about the format of the information and the limited web accessibility that constitutes a violation of European Legislation. (e.g people with limited visibility are unable to use the special softwares that read machine language and convert it into audible sound).
Exceptional opinions on the ownership reports that I have read (unfortunately only in Greek)