Knight Center
Knight Center


Digital platform Poderopedia’s new chapter to analyze power networks in Venezuela

Poderopedia is an online platform that documents and visualizes the relationships between individuals and organizations in Chile and Venezuela. Source: Screenshot from Poderopedia's promotional video. 

On World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on May 3, Venezuela’s Press and Society Institute (IPYS) launched a new chapter of the digital platform Poderopedia, which helps visualize the connections that exist between powerful people in the country, the organization reported. The platform collects and charts information about political and business leaders in the nation, revealing conflicts of interest, spheres of influence and other connections.

Poderopedia was initially launched in December 2012 by Chilean journalist Miguel Paz, a Knight International Journalism Fellow, with the goal of revealing the way influential people, companies and organizations in the country are related to each other. Paz and web developer Héctor Vergara created the project with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, after winning $200,000 in the Knight News Challenge 2011.

The interactive platform allows users to create profiles for people or entities, document their official roles, record their relationships to other people (for example, if they are relatives or have worked for the same organization) and visualize these connections in maps, among other features. From the start, Paz aimed to create different editions of Poderopedia across Latin America with the help and participation of journalism organizations in each country.

“We consider Poderopedia, in its call for transparency and dissemination of data, to be a mechanism against the lack of transparency that currently, above all, characterizes Venezuelan institutions, both private and public,” said Marianela Balbi, director of IPYS Venezuela, in a press release.

Poderopedia Venezuela currently contains 30 profiles of political and economic leaders in the country – including President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski – developed by an investigative team at IPYS Venezuela. The organization is also supported by Transparency Venezuela through Coalición ProAcceso. Their long-term plan is to expand profiles to cover cultural, religious and sports issues, and eventually cover “all spheres of the public world.”

Aside from using public information obtained from news media and government databases, Poderopedia allows its users to upload new documents, which the team at IPYS Venezuela will then verify before publishing, according to the organization.

“We want to invite journalists to incorporate themselves into this collaborative platform to expand the data on profiles and companies that allow us to see, transparently, how these relationships are formed,” Balbi said.

The platform publishes its content under a Creative Commons license -- also used by other journalism websites like ProPublica -- which allows other newspapers and media to publish their material for free, according to news site techPresident.

Unlike Chile, Venezuela does not have laws protecting access to public information or combating corruption, which means that Poderopedia faces both a great challenge and a great opportunity with this new chapter. The challenge will be in finding reliable data that can be used to create profiles and discover relationships between people and organizations, Paz told techPresident in an interview, but it will also increase the value of the information published in the site.

Aside from Poderopedia Venezuela, the platform will launch a third chapter in less than a month in Colombia, which will be administered by the Colombian journalist network Consejo de Redacción.

“We always wanted this to be a global project that wasn’t owned by us,” Paz said in an interview. “If this thing is worthwhile, people will take it and make it their own.”


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