Water Shortages in Latin America: How Can Behavioral Science Help?

Article by Juan Roa Duarte: “Today in 2024, one of Latin America’s largest cities, Bogota, is facing significant challenges due to prolonged droughts exacerbated by El Niño. As reservoir levels plummet, local governments have implemented water rationing measures to manage the crisis. However, these rationing measures have remained unsuccessful after one month of implementation—in fact, water usage increased during the first week.1 But why? What solution can finally help solve this crisis?

In this article, we will explore how behavioral science can help Latin American cities mitigate their water shortages—and how, surprisingly, a method my hometown Bogota used back in the ‘90s can shed some light on this current issue. We’ll also explore some modern behavioral science strategies that can be used in parallel…(More)”

Open government, civic tech and digital platforms in Latin America: A governance study of Montevideo’s urban app ‘Por Mi Barrio’

Paper by Carolina Aguerre and Carla Bonina: “Digital technologies have a recognised potential to build more efficient, credible, and innovative public institutions in Latin America. Despite progress, digital transformation in Latin American governments remains limited. In this work, we explore a peculiar yet largely understudied opportunity in the region: pursuing digital government transformation as a collaborative process between the government and civil society organisations. To do so, we draw from information systems research on digital government and platforms for development, complemented with governance theory from political science and conduct an interpretive in-depth case study of an urban reporting platform in Montevideo called ‘Por Mi Barrio’. The study reveals three mutually reinforced orders of governance in the trajectory of the project and explain how the collaboration unfolded over time: (i) a technical decision to use open platform architectures; (ii) the negotiation of formal and informal rules to make the project thrive and (iii) a shared, long-term ideology around the value of open technologies and technical sovereignty grounded in years of political history. Using a contextual explanation approach, our study helps to improve our understanding on the governance of collaborative digital government platforms in Latin America, with specific contributions to practice…(More)”.

Brazil hires OpenAI to cut costs of court battles

Article by Marcela Ayres and Bernardo Caram: “Brazil’s government is hiring OpenAI to expedite the screening and analysis of thousands of lawsuits using artificial intelligence (AI), trying to avoid costly court losses that have weighed on the federal budget.

The AI service will flag to government the need to act on lawsuits before final decisions, mapping trends and potential action areas for the solicitor general’s office (AGU).

AGU told Reuters that Microsoft would provide the artificial intelligence services from ChatGPT creator OpenAI through its Azure cloud-computing platform. It did not say how much Brazil will pay for the services.

Court-ordered debt payments have consumed a growing share of Brazil’s federal budget. The government estimated it would spend 70.7 billion reais ($13.2 billion) next year on judicial decisions where it can no longer appeal. The figure does not include small-value claims, which historically amount to around 30 billion reais annually.

The combined amount of over 100 billion reais represents a sharp increase from 37.3 billion reais in 2015. It is equivalent to about 1% of gross domestic product, or 15% more than the government expects to spend on unemployment insurance and wage bonuses to low-income workers next year.

AGU did not provide a reason for Brazil’s rising court costs…(More)”.

Unmasking and Quantifying Power Structures: How Network Analysis Enhances Peace and State-Building Efforts

Blog by Issa Luna Pla: “Critiques of peace and state-building efforts have pointed out the inadequate grasp of the origins of conflict, political unrest, and the intricate dynamics of criminal and illicit networks (Holt and Bouch, 2009Cockayne and Lupel, 2011). This limited understanding has failed to sufficiently weaken their economic and political influence or effectively curb their activities and objectives. A recent study highlights that although punitive approaches may have temporarily diminished the power of these networks, the absence of robust analytical tools has made it difficult to assess the enduring impact of these strategies.

1. Application of Network Analytics in State-Building

The importance of analytics in international peace and state-building operations is becoming increasingly recognized (O’Brien, 2010Gnanguenon, 2021Rød et al., 2023). Analytics, particularly network analysis, plays a crucial role in dissecting and dismantling complex power structures that often undermine peace initiatives and governance reforms. This analytical approach is crucial for revealing and disrupting the entrenched networks that sustain ongoing conflicts or obstruct peace processes. From the experiences in Guatemala, three significant lessons have been learned regarding the need for analytics for regional and thematic priorities in such operations (Waxenecker, 2019). These insights are vital for understanding how to tailor analytical strategies to address specific challenges in conflict-affected areas.

  1. The effectiveness of the International Commission CICIG in dismantling criminal networks was constrained by its lack of advanced analytical tools. This limitation prevented a deeper exploration of the conflicts’ roots and hindered the assessment of the long-term impacts of its strategies. While the CICIG had a systematic approach to understanding criminal networks from a contextual and legal perspective, its action plans lacked comprehensive statistic analytics methodologies, leading to missed opportunities in targeting key strategic players within these networks. High-level arrests were based on available evidence and charges that prosecutors could substantiate, rather than a strategic analysis of actors’ roles and influences within the networks’ dynamics.
  2. Furthermore, the extent of network dismantlement and the lasting effects of imprisonment and financial control of the illicit groups’ assets remain unclear, highlighting the need for predictive analytics to anticipate conflicts and sustainability. Such tools could enable operations to forecast potential disruptions or stability, allowing for data-driven proactive measures to prevent violence or bolster peace.
  3. Lastly, insights derived from network analysis suggest that efforts should focus on enhancing diplomatic negotiations, promoting economic development and social capital, and balancing punitive measures with strategic interventions. By understanding the dynamics and modeling group behavior in conflict zones, negotiations can be better informed by a deep and holistic comprehension of the underlying power structures and motivations. This approach could also help in forecasting recidivism, assessing risks of network reorganization, and evaluating the potential for increased armament, workforce, or empowerment, thereby facilitating more effective and sustainable peacebuilding initiatives.

2. Advancing Legal and Institutional Reforms

Utilizing data sciences in conflicted environments offers unique insights into the behavior of illicit networks and their interactions within the public and private sectors (Morselli et al., 2007Leuprecht and Hall, 2014Campedelli et al., 2019). This systematic approach, grounded in the analysis of years of illicit activities in Guatemala, highlights the necessity of rethinking traditional legal and institutional frameworks…(More)”.

Shaping the Future: Indigenous Voices Reshaping Artificial Intelligence in Latin America

Blog by Enzo Maria Le Fevre Cervini: “In a groundbreaking move toward inclusivity and respect for diversity, a comprehensive report “Inteligencia artificial centrada en los pueblos indígenas: perspectivas desde América Latina y el Caribe” authored by Cristina Martinez and Luz Elena Gonzalez has been released by UNESCO, outlining the pivotal role of Indigenous perspectives in shaping the trajectory of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Latin America. The report, a collaborative effort involving Indigenous communities, researchers, and various stakeholders, emphasizes the need for a fundamental shift in the development of AI technologies, ensuring they align with the values, needs, and priorities of Indigenous peoples.

The core theme of the report revolves around the idea that for AI to be truly respectful of human rights, it must incorporate the perspectives of Indigenous communities in Latin America, the Caribbean, and beyond. Recognizing the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, the report highlights the urgency of developing a framework of shared responsibility among different actors, urging them to leverage their influence for the collective public interest.

While acknowledging the immense potential of AI in preserving Indigenous identities, conserving cultural heritage, and revitalizing languages, the report notes a critical gap. Many initiatives are often conceived externally, prompting a call to reevaluate these projects to ensure Indigenous leadership, development, and implementation…(More)”.

State Capacities and Wicked Problems of Public Policy: Addressing Vulnerabilities that Affect Human Development

Report by Mosqueira, Edgardo; and Alessandro, Martín: “There is a growing mismatch between the types of public problems that governments face and the capabilities of the public administrations that design and implement policies to address them. Traditional administrative processes, the division of labor into ministries and agencies with clearly defined mandates, and even results-based management tools (such as logical frameworks or project management methodologies) are useful to address problems with relatively linear and predictable cause-effect relationships, in which success depends on the reliable execution of a predefined plan. In contrast, when dealing with wicked problems, multiple factors and actors are involved, often pushing in opposite directions and generating impacts across different sectors. Therefore, it is difficult to both align incentives and predict the effect of interventions. Such complex systems require a different approach, one that promotes collaboration among diverse actors, experimentation and learning to understand what works, and the ability to make rapid adjustments to interventions. This report illustrates the characteristics of wicked problems in two crucial development areas for Latin American and Caribbean countries: inequality and climate change. For each, it proposes institutional and managerial reforms that would expand the intervention capacities of LAC governments and analyzes the most relevant contexts for each option…(More)”.

Destination? Care Blocks!

Blog by Natalia González Alarcón, Hannah Chafetz, Diana Rodríguez Franco, Uma Kalkar, Bapu Vaitla, & Stefaan G. Verhulst: “Time poverty” caused by unpaid care work overload, such as washing, cleaning, cooking, and caring for their care-receivers is a structural consequence of gender inequality. In the City of Bogotá, 1.2 million women — 30% of their total women’s population — carry out unpaid care work full-time. If such work was compensated, it would represent 13% of Bogotá’s GDP and 20% of the country’s GDP. Moreover, the care burden falls disproportionately on women’s shoulder and prevents them from furthering their education, achieving financial autonomy, participating in their community, and tending to their personal wellbeing.

To address the care burden and its spillover consequences on women’s economic autonomy, well-being and political participation, in October 2020, Bogotá Mayor Claudia López launched the Care Block Initiative. Care Blocks, or Manzanas del cuidado, are centralized areas for women’s economic, social, medical, educational, and personal well-being and advancement. They provide services simultaneously for caregivers and care-receivers.

As the program expands from 19 existing Care Blocks to 45 Care Blocks by the end of 2035, decision-makers face another issue: mobility is a critical and often limiting factor for women when accessing Care Blocks in Bogotá.

On May 19th, 2023, The GovLabData2X, and the Secretariat for Women’s Affairs, in the City Government of Bogotá co-hosted a studio that aimed to scope a purposeful and gender-conscious data collaborative that addresses mobility-related issues affecting the access of Care Blocks in Bogotá. Convening experts across the gender, mobility, policy, and data ecosystems, the studio focused on (1) prioritizing the critical questions as it relates to mobility and access to Care Blocks and (2) identifying the data sources and actors that could be tapped into to set up a new data collaborative…(More)”.

How data helped Mexico City reduce high-impact crime by more than 50%

Article by Alfredo Molina Ledesma: “When Claudia Sheimbaum Pardo became Mayor of Mexico City 2018, she wanted a new approach to tackling the city’s most pressing problems. Crime was at the very top of the agenda – only 7% of the city’s inhabitants considered it a safe place. New policies were needed to turn this around.

Data became a central part of the city’s new strategy. The Digital Agency for Public Innovation was created in 2019 – tasked with using data to help transform the city. To put this into action, the city administration immediately implemented an open data policy and launched their official data platform, Portal de Datos Abiertos. The policy and platform aimed to make data that Mexico City collects accessible to anyone: municipal agencies, businesses, academics, and ordinary people.

“The main objective of the open data strategy of Mexico City is to enable more people to make use of the data generated by the government in a simple and interactive manner,” said Jose Merino, Head of the Digital Agency for Public Innovation. “In other words, what we aim for is to democratize the access and use of information.” To achieve this goal a new tool for interactive data visualization called Sistema Ajolote was developed in open source and integrated into the Open Data Portal…

Information that had never been made public before, such as street-level crime from the Attorney General’s Office, is now accessible to everyone. Academics, businesses and civil society organizations can access the data to create solutions and innovations that complement the city’s new policies. One example is the successful “Hoyo de Crimen” app, which proposes safe travel routes based on the latest street-level crime data, enabling people to avoid crime hotspots as they walk or cycle through the city.

Since the introduction of the open data policy – which has contributed to a comprehensive crime reduction and social support strategy – high-impact crime in the city has decreased by 53%, and 43% of Mexico City residents now consider the city to be a safe place…(More)”.

Brazil launches participatory national planning process

Article by Tarson Núñez and Luiza Jardim: “At a time when signs of a crisis in democracy are prevalent around the world, the Brazilian government is seeking to expand and deepen the active participation of citizens in its decisions. The new administration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva believes that more democracy is needed to rebuild citizens’ trust in political processes. And it just launched one of its main initiatives, the Participatory Pluriannual Plan (PPA Participativo). The PPA sets the goals and objectives for Brazil over the following four years, and Lula is determined to not only allow but facilitate public participation in its development. 

On May 11, the federal government held the first state plenary for the Participatory PPA, an assembly open to all citizens, social movements and civil society organizations. Participants at the state plenaries are able to discuss proposals and deliberate on the government’s public policies. Over the next two months, government officials will travel to the capitals of the country’s 26 states as well as the federal district (the capital of Brazil) to listen to people present their priorities. If they prefer, people can also submit their suggestions through a digital platform (Decidim, accessible only to people in Brazil) or the Interconselhos Forum, which brings together various councils and civil society groups…(More)”.

How a small news site built an innovative data project to visualise the impact of climate change on Uruguay’s capital

Interview by Marina Adami: “La ciudad sumergida (The submerged city), an investigation produced by Uruguayan science and technology news site Amenaza Roboto, is one of the winners of this year’s Sigma Awards for data journalism. The project uses maps of the country’s capital, Montevideo, to create impressive visualisations of the impact sea level rises are predicted to have on the city and its infrastructure. The project is a first of its kind for Uruguay, a small South American country in which data journalism is still a novelty. It is also a good example of a way news outlets can investigate and communicate the disastrous effects of climate change in local communities. 

I spoke to Miguel Dobrich, a journalist, educator and digital entrepreneur who worked on the project together with colleagues Gabriel FaríasNatalie Aubet and Nahuel Lamas, to find out what lessons other outlets can take from this project and from Amenaza Roboto’s experiments with analysing public data, collaborating with scientists, and keeping the focus on their communities….(More)”