Digital platform created by Knight International Journalism Fellow will use open data to monitor Amazon rainforest

There is already enough public data available to follow the destruction process of the largest rainforest in the world, but what is missing is a way to aggregate all of the available information and make it easier for the public to understand what is happening to the Amazon. As such, Brazilian journalist Gustavo Faleiros, winner of the Knight International Journalism Fellowship, a scholarship program led by the International Center For Journalists (ICFJ), has designed a project to improve the free flow of information and news.

Faleiros explained to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas that as a Knight fellow, his aim is to create a platform aggregating open data from the nine countries that form part of the Amazon. Data such as satellite images, information published via social networks, and journalistic stories, will be combined and presented in a digital map format to monitor the rainforest.

The project, titled Info Amazônia, to be launched during the Rio + 20 week, promotes data journalism in Brazil, one of the main goals of the Knight Fellowship. Faleiros said that, although he never considered himself a “data journalist,” his experience as an executive editor for the environmental portal O Eco made him part of that universe.

“The fellowship is the result of a four to five year process working with O Eco, where I started working with a lot of things related to open databases, such as Amazon fire satellite images. In 2008, we did our first news cover about the fires with information available on the INPE or the NASA websites. In this process, I learned about protected area boundaries, deforestation in national parks, and so on,” he said.

According to Faleiros, when it comes to data journalism, there are few reports that explore environmental data due to budget constraints and lack of funding.

In addition to the digital platform, Faleiros will work in conjunction with the newspaper Folha de São Paulo and the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) to create workshops focused on the use of geolocation data and map making.

Faleiros also wants to help establish meetings between computer programmers and journalists, something that also is a goal of Argentine winner of the Knight Fellowship, Sandra Crucianelli. “This model comes from the Hack/Hackers community, which is growing around the world, but we don't have to call it that name. The idea is to promote these meetings," he said.