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)”

Big data proves mobility is not gender-neutral

Blog by Ellin Ivarsson, Aiga Stokenberg and Juan Ignacio Fulponi: “All over the world, there is growing evidence showing that women and men travel differently. While there are many reasons behind this, one key factor is the persistence of traditional gender norms and roles that translate into different household responsibilities, different work schedules, and, ultimately, different mobility needs. Greater overall risk aversion and sensitivity to safety issues also play an important role in how women get around. Yet gender often remains an afterthought in the transport sector, meaning most policies or infrastructure investment plans are not designed to take into account the specific mobility needs of women.

The good news is that big data can help change that. In a recent study, the World Bank Transport team combined several data sources to analyze how women travel around the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA), including mobile phone signal data, congestion data from Waze, public transport smart card data, and data from a survey implemented by the team in early 2022 with over 20,300 car and motorcycle users.

Our research revealed that, on average, women in AMBA travel less often than men, travel shorter distances, and tend to engage in more complex trips with multiple stops and purposes. On average, 65 percent of the trips made by women are shorter than 5 kilometers, compared to 60 percent among men. Also, women’s hourly travel patterns are different, with 10 percent more trips than men during the mid-day off-peak hour, mostly originating in central AMBA. This reflects the larger burden of household responsibilities faced by women – such as picking children up from school – and the fact that women tend to work more irregular hours…(More)” See also Gender gaps in urban mobility.

Innovating Democracy? The Means and Ends of Citizen Participation in Latin America

Book by Thamy Pogrebinschi: “Since democratization, Latin America has experienced a surge in new forms of citizen participation. Yet there is still little comparative knowledge on these so-called democratic innovations. This Element seeks to fill this gap. Drawing on a new dataset with 3,744 cases from 18 countries between 1990 and 2020, it presents the first large-N cross-country study of democratic innovations to date. It also introduces a typology of twenty kinds of democratic innovations, which are based on four means of participation, namely deliberation, citizen representation, digital engagement, and direct voting. Adopting a pragmatist, problem-driven approach, this Element claims that democratic innovations seek to enhance democracy by addressing public problems through combinations of those four means of participation in pursuit of one or more of five ends of innovations, namely accountability, responsiveness, rule of law, social equality, and political inclusion…(More)”.

Contextualizing Datafication in Peru: Insights from a Citizen Data Literacy Project

Paper by Katherine Reilly and Marieliv Flores: The pilot data literacy project Son Mis Datos showed volunteers how to leverage Peru’s national data protection law to request access to personal data held by Peruvian companies, and then it showed them how to audit corporate data use based on the results. While this intervention had a positive impact on data literacy, by basing it on a universalist conception of datafication, our work inadvertently reproduced the dominant data paradigm we hoped to challenge. This paper offers a retrospective analysis of Son Mis Datos, and explores the gap between van Dijck’s widely cited theory of datafication, and the reality of our participants’ experiences with datafication and digital transformation on the ground in Peru. On this basis, we suggest an alternative definition of datafication more appropriate to critical scholarship as the transformation of social relations around the uptake of personal data in the coordination of transactions, and propose an alternative approach to data literacy interventions that begins with the experiences of data subjects…(More)”.

How Data Happened: A History from the Age of Reason to the Age of Algorithms

Book by Chris Wiggins and Matthew L Jones: “From facial recognition—capable of checking people into flights or identifying undocumented residents—to automated decision systems that inform who gets loans and who receives bail, each of us moves through a world determined by data-empowered algorithms. But these technologies didn’t just appear: they are part of a history that goes back centuries, from the census enshrined in the US Constitution to the birth of eugenics in Victorian Britain to the development of Google search.

Expanding on the popular course they created at Columbia University, Chris Wiggins and Matthew L. Jones illuminate the ways in which data has long been used as a tool and a weapon in arguing for what is true, as well as a means of rearranging or defending power. They explore how data was created and curated, as well as how new mathematical and computational techniques developed to contend with that data serve to shape people, ideas, society, military operations, and economies. Although technology and mathematics are at its heart, the story of data ultimately concerns an unstable game among states, corporations, and people. How were new technical and scientific capabilities developed; who supported, advanced, or funded these capabilities or transitions; and how did they change who could do what, from what, and to whom?

Wiggins and Jones focus on these questions as they trace data’s historical arc, and look to the future. By understanding the trajectory of data—where it has been and where it might yet go—Wiggins and Jones argue that we can understand how to bend it to ends that we collectively choose, with intentionality and purpose…(More)”.