Interview to a data journalist, Isaia Invernizzi – Visualeyed
D-Stories | Culture

Interview to a data journalist, Isaia Invernizzi

Isaia Invernizzi, data expert, explains to us the open data issues


Currently, Isaia Invernizzi works as a journalist at Italian online magazine Il Post.
For many years he has worked for the local magazine L’Eco di Bergamo and he closely followed the pandemic that strongly affected the city and district of Bergamo.
He is a data expert and won the Data Journalist prize powered by the Festival Glocal.
In the following interview he explains to us the importance of using open data in order to create a more livable and conscious world.
For that reason, he supports associations and initiatives that ask for more transparency and more open data at both national and local level.

Data is fundamental for your work, especially during this pandemic.
Data collection, analysis and communication are key points today and people can obtain them especially thanks to open data. But, what does it mean open data?

Open data is public data freely available for everyone:  private citizens, experts and journalists. Open data is collected by public and private institutions, for example PA or companies and shows authorized data. Indeed, we can’t find sensitive information of people inside public open data.
I believe that we need not only more open data, but also better data: not just quantity, but also quality.

In Italy, how can you define the open data issue? For example, could having more and better open data be useful in the public health sector, especially in this pandemic?

In Italy during these last years data has become more and more open and available at both national and local level.
The pandemic forced us to ask for more open data, for example, from March 2020, Civil Protection converted PDF data into open data in order to make data usable for everyone.
The current situation, in my opinion, has improved the open data issue a lot.

Which other sectors could benefit from open data?

Many sectors could benefit from it: environment, transports, education, health care.
Open data allows people and experts to monitor and control what happens around us everyday and it can help us to deeply understand the reality in which we live.
For example, the environment could gain more attention if we used and study open data related to its condition.

Recently, you worked on the Rt issue in Lombardia. In this case, could open data have helped experts and politicians?

If data collected by Lombardia had been checked by experts, data scientists or data journalists that analyze complex data everyday, probably it would have been possible to report errors to the authorities earlier.
This situation is really complex both to analyze and communicate.
For this reason, data journalists like me need to take more attention to data communication because the concepts are often complex.
This pandemic shows us that data needs to be not only shown but also explained correctly and as easily as possible.
The vaccine campaign and its data are furtherly testing us.

Italian open data activism has been active for some years thanks to associations like ondata, of which Andrea Borruso is president.
In your opinion, will the government make data more open and accessible to everyone in 2021?

Thanks to associations like Ondata it has been possible to obtain more access to data in several sectors. More journalists, not only data journalists, and private citizens are supporting their requests and their help is precious for the whole society.
Often, PA doesn’t seem to perceive the data collection is highly important for everybody.

Could you give a whole picture of the European open data issue? Is Italy doing well, compared to other European states or is there anything we could learn and improve?

Pandemic caught Italy and the world unprepared, also for data management.
The difficulties were and currently are common: each state reacted in different ways, according to its own possibilities.
I think that Italy is doing well and could be put in a good position about open data issues.
Maybe, Germany is a good example for us on how to use and transmit data and information.
Moreover, as a data journalist I always suggest looking at the Eurostat database that offers much open data in many different sectors: I find them extremely useful and important.

How is open data managed in the USA? Will there be changes with this new administration?

Yes, it seems that Biden will make data more available, but the USA have done a good job since the beginning of the pandemic. For example, privates such as The New York Times have done an incredible job showing Covid-19 data with an efficient and complete analysis.

Usually, in the USA the newsroom has got a data journalism team, which involves different professional figures. Do you think that in Italy these teams are necessary in the editorial staff of Italian magazines?

It would be ideal for us, because we could have different skilled figures such as data analysts, graphic designers, journalists and it would be possible to create perfect data communication.

Has your job changed since you started working for a national magazine?

Actually, today I write facts and data everyday like before. Certainly, working for a national magazine like Il Post is quite different: I use bigger and more complex databases than before.
Now I have more material, but my goal is the same as the beginning of my career: to tell stories and our reality as transparently and easily as possible.
Not by chance, clarity and simplicity are key points for the magazine Il Post I work for.

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