Why governing data is key for the future of cities


Article by Carlos Santiso and Marcelo Facchina: “Technology is changing city dwellers lives, as well as how urban centres evolve to meet their needs. The pandemic has accelerated this transformation, and the digital transition has generated an explosion of data, especially in cities. In this context, the ability of local governments to manage urban problems will be paramount for the recovery, and the pandemic has helped us better understand the missing elements we need to govern cities effectively. For instance, the World Bank’s World Development Report of 2021 underscored that a data infrastructure policy is one of the building blocks of a good data governance framework, both to foster the local data economy and promote digital inclusion.  

It is inconceivable not to consider cities as an integral part of the solution to challenges like tackling social exclusion, improving public services and reducing insecurity, among others. A key issue that has become increasingly prominent in city agendas is the good governance of data; that is how data is handled and for what purpose, its quality and integrity, as well as the privacy and security concerns related to its collection and use. In other words, city governments need to preserve people’s trust in the way they handle data to improve lives.

A modern local government cannot be sustained without good data governance, secure data infrastructure, and digital talent to extract public value from data. Data policy must therefore act as an enabler of transformation strategies, defining the scope, direction, responsibilities and procedures for the effective and responsible use of data for more responsive and resilient cities.

At the national level, “delivery units” have gained relevance as instruments for managing change in governments and driving the effective implementation of strategic priorities. These management models led by central government have proven to be effective instruments for achieving government targetspriority goals and major projects.

The model is even being expanded to subnational governments, like in the case of Colombia. Municipalities interact directly with citizens in providing public services, and innovations like the “delivery units”, can help improve citizen satisfaction with government services. In a recent study, we show how Latin American cities, for example Recife and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, have leveraged these innovations in public management as a strategic planning tool, building on the pioneering experience of New York. Another interesting case is Buenos Aires, in Argentina, where systematic monitoring of government commitments by the Compliance Management Unit achieved a significant decrease in murder rates (43%) and road accidents (33%) between 2015 and 2019.

The pivotal role of new technologies and the strategic use of data by municipal governments can also improve delivery of services, making them more accessible, agile, efficient and less costly. In another recent study, we look at the case of 12 cities around the world and in the region, including Boston, Seoul, London, Buenos Aires, Medellin, Mexico and Recife that are seeking to strengthen their strategic management with more intensive use of data to better meet the growing expectations of their citizens….(More)”.

Liberation Technology


Tim Keary at the Stanford Social Innovation Review: “Human traffickers have forced hundreds of women, children, and men into sexual slavery in Colombia during the past decade. According to Colombia’s Ministry of the Interior and Justice, 686 cases of human trafficking occurred within the country from January 2013 to July 2020. Many of those seized were women, children, and Venezuelan migrants.

To combat this crime, Migración Colombia, the nation’s border control agency; the US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM); and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched a mobile application called LibertApp last July. Pressing the app’s panic button immediately sends the user’s live geolocation data to the Colombian Ministry of the Interior’s Anti-Human Trafficking Operations Center (COAT), where an expert anti-trafficking team investigates the report.

The app also functions as a resource hub for information and prevention. It offers an educational module (available in both English and Spanish) that explains what human trafficking is, who is the most at risk, and the most common strategies that traffickers use to isolate and exploit victims. LibertApp also includes a global directory of consulates’ contact information that users can access for support.

While COAT and Migración Colombia now manage the app, IOM, an international organization that supports migrant communities and advises national governments on migration policy, developed the original concept, provided technical support, created user profiles, and built the educational module. IOM saw LibertApp as a new tool to support high-risk groups such as Venezuelan migrants and refugees. “It is necessary to permanently search for different strategies for the prevention of trafficking” and to ensure the “rescue of victims who are in Colombia or abroad,” says Ana Durán-Salvatierra, IOM Colombia’s chief of mission….

PRM funded the app, which had a budget of $15,000. The investment was part of the department’s overall contribution through the United Nations appeal known as the Refugee and Migrant Response Plan, a global initiative that had granted a total of $276.4 million to Colombia as of November 2020.

In less than a year of operation, 246 people have used the app to make reports, culminating in a handful of investigations and rescues. The most notable success story occurred last summer when COAT received a report from LibertApp that led to the rescue of a Venezuelan minor from a bar in Maní, in the Casanare region of Colombia, that was being run as a brothel. During the raid, authorities captured two Colombian citizens alleged to have managed the establishment and who coerced 15 women into sexual slavery….(More)”

Digital platforms for development: Foundations and research agenda


Paper by Carla Bonina, Kari Koskinen, Ben Eaton, and Annabelle Gawer: “Digital platforms hold a central position in today’s world economy and are said to offer a great potential for the economies and societies in the global South. Yet, to date, the scholarly literature on digital platforms has largely concentrated on business while their developmental implications remain understudied. In part, this is because digital platforms are a challenging research object due to their lack of conceptual definition, their spread across different regions and industries, and their intertwined nature with institutions, actors and digital technologies. The purpose of this article is to contribute to the ongoing debate in information systems and ICT4D research to understand what digital platforms mean for development. To do so, we first define what digital platforms are and differentiate between transaction and innovation platforms, and explain their key characteristics in terms of purpose, research foundations, material properties and business models. We add the socio‐technical context digital platforms operate and the linkages to developmental outcomes. We then conduct an extensive review to explore what current areas, developmental goals, tensions and issues emerge in the literature on platforms and development and identify relevant gaps in our knowledge. We later elaborate on six research questions to advance the studies on digital platforms for development: on indigenous innovation, digital platforms and institutions, on exacerbation of inequalities, on alternative forms of value, on the dark side of platforms and on the applicability of the platform typology for development….(More)”.

Guide to Good Practice on the Use of New Technologies for the Administration of Justice


Report by México Evalúa: “This document offers a brief review of decisions, initiatives and implementation processes of various policies designed by the judiciary to incorporate the use of new technologies in their work. We are interested in highlighting the role that these tools can play not only in diversifying the means through which the public accesses the service of imparting justice, but also in facilitating and improving the organization of work in the courts and tribunals. We also analyzed the way in which the application of certain technological developments in justiciary tasks, in particular tele or videoconferences, has redefined the traditional structure of the judicial proceeding by allowing remote, simultaneous and collective interaction of the subjects involved. We also reflect on the dilemmas, viability and not always intended effects of the use of new technologies in the administration of justice.

(…)

We chose to analyze them from the focus of the procedural moment in which they intervene, that is, from the user’s perspective, because although technological solutions may have a wide range of objectives, it seems to us that, behind any technological development, the goal of facilitating, expanding and improving citizens’ access to justice should always prevail. We report several experiences aimed at reorganizing the processing of legal proceedings in the various phases that structure them, from the activation stage procedural (filing of lawsuit or judicialization of a criminal investigation) to the execution of court rulings (judgments, arbitral awards), passing through the processing of cases (hearings, proceedings). We would like to emphasize that access to justice includes everything from the processing of cases to the timely enforcement of court rulings. That vision can be summarized with the following figure:…(More)”.

Policy priority inference: A computational framework to analyze the allocation of resources for the sustainable development goals


Paper by Omar A. Guerrero and Gonzalo Castañeda: “We build a computational framework to support the planning of development and the evaluation of budgetary strategies toward the 2030 Agenda. The methodology takes into account some of the complexities of the political economy underpinning the policymaking process: the multidimensionality of development, the interlinkages between these dimensions, and the inefficiencies of policy interventions, as well as institutional factors that promote or discourage these inefficiencies. The framework is scalable and usable even with limited publicly available information: development-indicator data. However, it can be further refined as more data becomes available, for example, on public expenditure. We demonstrate its usage through an application for the Mexican federal government. For this, we infer historical policy priorities, that is, the non-observable allocations of transformative resources that generated past changes in development indicators. We also show how to use the tool to assess the feasibility of development goals, to measure policy coherence, and to identify accelerators. Overall, the framework and its computational tools allow policymakers and other stakeholders to embrace a complexity (and a quantitative) view to tackle the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals….(More)”.

The Politics of Technology in Latin America


Book edited by Avery Plaw, Barbara Carvalho Gurgel and David Ramírez Plascencia: “This book analyses the arrival of emerging and traditional information and technology for public and economic use in Latin America. It focuses on the governmental, economic and security issues and the study of the complex relationship between citizens and government.

The book is divided into three parts:

• ‘Digital data and privacy, prospects and barriers’ centers on the debates among the right of privacy and the loss of intimacy in the Internet,

• ‘Homeland security and human rights’ focuses on how novel technologies such as drones and autonomous weapons systems reconfigure the strategies of police authorities and organized crime,

• ‘Labor Markets, digital media and emerging technologies’ emphasize the legal, economic and social perils and challenges caused by the increased presence of social media, blockchain-based applications, artificial intelligence and automation technologies in the Latin American economy….(More)”.

Where are there gaps in gender data in five Latin American and Caribbean countries?


Data2X: “This report builds on our 2019 technical report, Bridging the Gap: Mapping Gender Data Availability in Africabut shifts the geographic focus to Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).

It reports on the availability of gender data in Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Paraguay at the international, national, and microdata levels, and it assesses the availability of 93 gender indicators, their disaggregations, and their frequency of observation in international and national databases and publications.

Additionally, with the assistance of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC), the report documents the availability of statistical indicators to support gender development plans in the five countries.

Through this report, we hope to help move the development community one step closer to producing high-quality and policy-relevant gender indicators to inform better decisions….Read the report.

This app is helping mothers in the Brazilian favelas survive the pandemic



Daniel Avelar at Open Democracy: “As Brazil faces one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world, a smartphone app is helping residents of impoverished areas known as favelas survive the virus threat amid sudden mass unemployment.

So far, the Latin American country has recorded over 115.000 deaths caused by COVID-19. The shutdown of economic activity wiped out 7.8 million jobs, mostly affecting low-skilled informal workers who form the bulk of the population in the favelas. Emergency income distributed by the government is limited to 60% of the minimum wage, so families are struggling to make ends meet.

Many blame president Jair Bolsonaro for the tragedy. Bolsonaro, a far-right populist, has consistently rallied against science-based policies in the management of the pandemic and pushed for an end to stay-at-home orders. A precocious reopening of the economy is likely to increase infection rates and cause more deaths.

In an attempt to stop the looming humanitarian catastrophe, a coalition of activists in the favelas and corporate partners developed an app that is facilitating the distribution of food and emergency income to thousands of women spearheading families. The app has a facial recognition feature that helps volunteers identify and register recipients of aid and prevents fraud.

So far, the Favela Mothers project has distributed the equivalent to US$ 26 million in food parcels and cash allowances to more than 1.1 million families in 5,000 neighborhoods across the country….(More)”.

Might social intelligence save Latin America from its governments in times of Covid-19?


Essay by Thamy Pogrebinschi: “…In such scenarios, it seems relevant to acknowledge the limits of the state to deal with huge and unpredictable challenges and thus the need to resort to civil society. State capacity cannot be built overnight, but social intelligence is an unlimited and permanently available resource. In recent years, digital technology has multiplied what has been long called social intelligence (Dewey) and is now more often known as collective intelligence (Lévy), the wisdom of crowds (Surowiecki), or democratic reason (Landemore).

Taken together, these concepts point to the most powerful tool available to governments facing hard problems and unprecedented challenges: the sourcing and sharing of knowledge, information, skills, resources, and data from citizens in order to address social and political problems.

The Covid-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to test the potential of social intelligence as fuel for processes of creative collaboration that may aid governments to reinvent themselves and prepare for the challenges that will remain after the virus is gone. By creative collaboration, I mean a range of forms of communication, action, and connection among citizens themselves, between citizens and civil society organizations (CSOs), and between the latter two and their governments, all with the common aim of addressing problems that affect all and that the state for various reasons cannot (satisfactorily) respond to alone.

While several Latin American countries have been stuck in the Covid-19 crisis with governments unable or unwilling to contain it or to reduce its damages, a substantial number of digital democratic innovations have been advanced by civil society in the past few months. These comprise institutions, processes, and mechanisms that rely on digital citizen participation as a means to address social and political problems – and, more recently, also problems of a humanitarian nature….

Between March 16 and July 1 of this year, at least 400 digital democratic innovations were created across 18 countries in Latin America with the specific aim of handling the Covid-19 crisis and mitigating its impact, according to recent data from the LATINNO project. These innovations are essentially mechanisms and processes in which citizens, with the aid of digital tools, are enabled to address social, political, and humanitarian problems related to the pandemic.

Citizens engage in and contribute to three levels of responses, which are based on information, connection, and action. About one-fourth of these digital democratic innovations clearly rely on crowdsourcing social intelligence.

The great majority of those digital innovations have been developed by CSOs. Around 75% of them have no government involvement at all, which is striking in a region known for implementing state-driven citizen participation as a result of the democratization processes that took place in the late 20th century. Civil society has stepped in in most countries, particularly where government responses were absent (Brazil and Nicaragua), slow (Mexico), insufficient due to lack of economic resources (Argentina) or infrastructure (Peru), or simply inefficient (Chile).

Based on these data from 18 Latin American countries, one can observe that digital democratic innovations address challenges posed by the Covid-19 outbreak in five main ways: first, generating verified information and reliable data; second, geolocating problems, needs, and demands; third, mobilizing resources, skills, and knowledge to address those problems, needs, and demands; fourth, connecting demand (individuals and organizations in need) and supply (individuals and organizations willing to provide whatever is needed); and fifth and finally, implementing and monitoring public policies and actions. In some countries, there is a sixth use that cuts across the other five: assisting vulnerable groups such as the elderly, women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, and Afro-descendants….(More)”

The $100 Million Nudge: Increasing Tax Compliance of Businesses and the Self-Employed using a Natural Field Experiment


Paper by Justin E. Holz et al: “This paper uses a natural field experiment to examine the effectiveness of specific nudges on tax compliance amongst firms and the self-employed in the Dominican Republic. In collaboration with the Dominican Republic’s tax authority, we designed messages for more than 28,000 self-employed workers and over 56,000 firms. Leveraging administrative tax data, we find evidence that our nudges (increasing the salience of prison sentences or public disclosure of tax evaders) have large effects on increasing tax compliance, primarily working through the channel of decreasing claimed tax exemptions. Interestingly, we find that firms are more impacted than the self-employed, and that firm size is critically linked to nudge effectiveness: larger firms are considerably more influenced by nudges than smaller firms. We find this latter result noteworthy given the paucity of evidence showing significant behavioral impacts of nudges amongst the largest players in a market. Overall, our messages increased tax revenue by $193 million (roughly 0.23% of the Dominican Republic’s GDP in 2018), with over $100 million constituting income that the government would not have received without our field experimental nudges….(More)”.