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)”.

Resetting the state for the post-covid digital age


Blog by Carlos Santiso: “The COVID-19 crisis is putting our global digital resilience to the test. It has revealed the importance of a country’s digital infrastructure as the backbone of the economy, not just as an enabler of the tech economy. Digitally advanced governments, such as Estonia, have been able to put their entire bureaucracies in remote mode in a matter of days, without major disruption. And some early evidence even suggests that their productivity increased during lockdown.

With the crisis, the costs of not going digital have largely surpassed the risks of doing so. Countries and cities lagging behind have realised the necessity to boost their digital resilience and accelerate their digital transformation. Spain, for example, adopted an ambitious plan to inject 70 billion euro into in its digital transformation over the next five years, with a Digital Spain 2025 agenda comprising 10 priorities and 48 measures. In the case of Brazil, the country was already taking steps towards the digital transformation of its public sector before the COVID-19 crisis hit. The crisis is accelerating this transformation.

The great accelerator

Long before the crisis hit, the data-driven digital revolution has been challenging governments to modernise and become more agile, open and responsive. Progress has nevertheless been uneven, hindered by a variety of factors, from political resistance to budget constraints. Going digital requires the sort of whole-of government reforms that need political muscle and long-term vision to break-up traditional data silos within bureaucracies, jealous to preserve their power. In bureaucracies, information is power. Now, information has become ubiquitous and governing data, a critical challenge.

Cutting red tape will be central to the recovery. Many governments are fast-tracking regulatory simplification and administrative streamlining to reboot hard-hit economic sectors. Digitalisation is resetting the relationship between states and citizens, a Copernican revolution for our rule-based bureaucracies….(More)“.

Citizen initiatives facing COVID-19: Due to spontaneous generation or the product of social capital in Mexico City?


UNDP: “Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Mexico, multiple citizen responses[1] have emerged to tackle its impacts: digital aid platforms such as Frena la Curva (Stop the curve) and México Covid19;  groups of makers that design medical and protective equipment; Zapotec indigenous women that teach how to make hand sanitizer at home; public buses that turn into mobile markets; and much more.

There are initiatives that aid 10, 20, 3,000 or more people; initiatives that operate inside a housing unit, a municipality or across the City. Some responses have come from civil society organizations; others from collectives of practitioners or from groups of friends and family; there are even those made out of groups of strangers that the pandemic turned into partners working for the same goal….

Within the plurality of initiatives that have emerged, sometimes, seemingly in a spontaneous way, there is a common denominator: people are reacting in a collaboratively way to the crisis to solve the needs that the pandemic is leaving behind.

Different research studies connect social cohesion and social capital with the response’s capacity of a community in situations of crisis and natural disasters; and with its subsequent recovery. These concepts —derived from sociology— include aspects such as the level of union; relationships and networks; and interaction between people in a community.

This can be seen when, for example, a group of people in a neighborhood gets together to buy groceries for neighbors who have lost their incomes. Also, when a collective of professionals react to the shortages of protective equipment for health workers by creating low-cost prototypes, or when a civil organization collaborates with local authorities to bring water to households that lack access to clean water.

It would seem that a high rate of social capital and social cohesion might ease the rise of the citizen initiatives that aim to tackle the challenges that ensue from the pandemic. These do not come out of nowhere….(More)”.