Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)

Overview

Representing the entire continent of South America and the Caribbean Region, this region encompasses geographies ranging from the vast Amazon rainforest to tiny, dispersed islands. With well over half a billion people, it is also home to an impressive array of Indigenous peoples and diversity, although the region has also struggled with the legacy of European colonialism. While LAC includes some of the world’s largest economies (notably Brazil), it also faces a wide variety of development challenges. These include social and economic vulnerability, ever-increasing wealth stratification, political instability, and the threat of climate change, which is especially harmful to island nations.

Projects

Disarming Disinformation: How Migrants Fall Victim to Disinformation

To fill the information gap brought on by complex migratory processes, poor institutional communication, and lack of trust in authorities, Latin American migrant communities transiting through Mexico on their way to the USA often resort to the use of social media and instant messaging apps. While sometimes a source of helpful information, these are also polluted with disinformation and scams, ranging from alleged “opening” days/hours of Mexico’s northern border, to fallacious legal advice, to false job and visa offerings. In collaboration with Conexión Migrante, VerificadoMX, PolitiFact and The Associated Press, the DPA team investigated the business models that leverage and finance the disinformation that can put migrants’ lives at risk. The investigation was published by multiple media outlets, including our partner Proceso.

Tracking Policy Influence using Gender-Based Violence as a Case Study: Assessing the Overton Platform
Design and Development of the Central Database & CRM for Abogadas MX’s “Standards for Diversity and Inclusion within Law Firms in Mexico” Program.

DPA, in collaboration with Abogadas MX, led the design and development of the Central Database and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software for the “Standards for Diversity and Inclusion in Law Firms in Mexico” Program. This included the creation of a survey to collect gender-focused data from law firms. This initiative enabled the organization to systematically gather and manage information from specific law firms about gender equality and the implemented policies, facilitating the generation of recommendations aimed at improving internal policies to address gender inequality issues and promote the mainstreaming of gender perspectives in the legal sector.

Increasing and Strengthening the Availability of Digital Sexual and Reproductive Health Services with Youth-Friendly Approaches in Latin America
In partnership with Fòs Feminista, DPA conducted a consultancy with the objective of updating Fòs Feminista‘ subject knowledge, with a focus on digital sexual and reproductive health services implemented by their partners in the LATAM, Africa, and Asia regions, as well as to generate an analysis of the different strategies and methodologies used to apply a youth-friendly approach in delivering sexual and reproductive health services digitally. 
The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation Data Feminism Grant

The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation (PJMF) awarded DPA’s Data Feminism Program a twelve-month, $300,000 grant to support our work advancing intersectional, data-driven research, training and advocacy to continue fostering gender equality across Latin America and the Caribbean, the MENA region and Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2023, the grant was renewed for $400,000 to continue supporting existing and new Data Feminism Initiatives, including the Book and Movie Club, “Technology Through Feminist Lenses.”

Professional Training Program “Big Data for Measuring the Digital Economy”

In partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), DPA offered a series of workshops particularly focused on Big Data and the Digital Economy in the Latin American and the Caribbean region designed for development practitioners, policymakers, and researchers. Five editions were delivered in: Santiago de Chile (March 2016), São Paulo (September 2017) —in partnership with Cetic.br—, Mexico City (October 2017) —in collaboration with the National Digital Strategy (EDN) program and the MIT Sloan School of Management—, Santo Domingo (April 2019), and Bogotá (May 2019) —in partnership with DANE.

EmpoderaData

EmpoderaData builds upon the success of the “Quantitative Step” (Q-Step) program, which was developed as a strategic response to the shortage of quantitatively-skilled social science graduates in the United Kingdom. Together, University of Manchester and Data-Pop Alliance expanded upon the program’s excellent results, exploring this model in the Global South as the “EmpoderaData Project”. The project aimed to promote a virtuous cycle of social transformation by fostering data literacy skills applied to addressing our society’s most pressing issues in the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ciudata Segura

Increasingly, data and information are being promoted as a powerful tool to understand and prevent crime and violence. However, there are two key questions that remain largely unanswered: 1) Why is crime clustering in certain neighborhoods? 2) Why do certain individuals turn to crime and not others? Leveraging sophisticated analyzes about urban crime and violence in Latin America and the Caribbean cities, Ciudata Segura analyzed the local determinants of crime and the role of impunity and social networks in driving criminal behavior through the collection and analysis of official and non-official data sources to produce public policy recommendations and action plans. The project, funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and developed in collaboration with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), Fundazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), the MIT Media Lab and Citizens Crime Commission, began in 2017 and has resulted in close coordination with local governments and stakeholders, in addition to: the creation of roadmaps, data audits, and capability assessments to determine further interventions; and the production of research instrument for analysis, including a series of surveys and the creation of a visualization tool.

DataMex

Data-Pop Alliance and Oxfam México formed a partnership through “DataMex”, with the goal of advancing research and the application of Big Data for sustainable development in Mexico. This agreement, signed in late 2018, has since led to a consultancy and scoping study to identify the areas in which Big Data could be employed to better understand inequalities that have not been analyzed in depth. The resulting project was “Mundos Paralelos“, which focused on areas lacking in understanding and new perspectives that could provide critical insights into the work of Oxfam Mexico.

 

Characterizing and Analyzing Urban Dynamics In Bogota (from the Paper Series: “Big Data to Address Global Development Challenges”)

Four research papers were developed in collaboration with and funded by the French Development Agency (AFD) between 2016 and 2019 as part of  a joint program with Data-Pop Alliance and research partners, titled “Strengthening the Evidence-Base for Leveraging Big Data to Address Global Development Challenges”. This paper, “Characterizing and Analyzing Urban Dynamics in Bogota”, utilized open data and mobile phone records to identify physical characteristics and socioeconomic conditions in the city which have an impact on crime proliferation. The results indicated that urban diversity and natural surveillance theories play a significant role in the proliferation of crime, and this knowledge can be exploited in urban planning to prevent crime. Key research partners included Fundazione Bruno Kessler (FBK) and the MIT Media Lab.

National Big Data Strategy for Colombia

The MIT Media Lab and DPA provided technical assistance to iNNpulsa—Colombia’s entrepreneurship and innovation agencyand to the National Planning Department (DNP), in the design and development of the country’s first national Big Data strategy, which was presented to the President of Colombia in 2020. After intensive research, DPA produced nine diagnostic documents that were used to identify priority areas and specific actions that generated the necessary synergies to achieve four strategic objectives of the project: 1) Strengthen the Big Data ecosystem in the country, 2) Develop analytical capabilities for greater and better use of data, 3) Foster the digital economy, and 4) Promote the adoption of Big Data solutions and AI for public administration. In that sense, an implementation proposal and two pilot projects in Colombia were completed, along with an impact evaluation and two training workshops.

Book and Movie Club: “Networks’ Capitalism: Addiction, Disinformation and Violence”

This Book and Movie Club, a joint effort between Eureka and DPA, focused on addiction, disinformation, and violence stemming from social media in the context of Latin America. The Club featured two documentaries, a fiction movie, and a book related to the topic that addressed questions such as, Does monetization imply addition? How is social media used to spread hatred and violence? What is surveillance capitalism, and how does it relate to the business model of Internet platforms? The Club concluded with a panel discussion led by Paula Villarreal (Data Scientist & Full Stack Engineer), Matías González (Observatorio Legislativo del CELE), and Julie Ricard (Eureka Founder), and moderated by Ivette Yáñez (DPA).

Project Cycle Hacking Toolkit: Leveraging Non-Traditional Data Sources Along the GIZ Project Cycle

In partnership with the GIZ Data Lab, this project sought to create a Toolkit to guide GIZ in the use of nontraditional data sources throughout the project lifecycle. The tool was designed and developed from a thorough analysis of GIZ processes, with the goal of understanding how and where non-traditional sources of data could be leveraged in the formulation, design, implementation, and evaluation of their projects. The Toolkit, designed with a user-centered approach, was tested and tried during two workshops to support GIZ Ecuador’s “Ciudades Intermedia Sostenibles” II.

The Racial Justice Data Project

The current debate on the collection and use of race-related data is shaped by country-specific cultural practices and historical backgrounds. Nevertheless, there is a pressing need for more and better racial data in all societies, as a prerequisite for addressing related inequalities. The Racial Justice Data Project contributed to this movement of greater visibility for racial data while focusing on regions that have not been sufficiently explored (Europe and Latin America) and will eventually cover multiple racial-related themes within the platform.

The project provided valuable inputs that can be used by a wide range of actors, from civil society, journalists, researchers, and individuals to advance advocacy causes through data-driven strategies, to public or private stakeholders as a fundamental tool for evidence-based decision-making. To achieve these goals, the project leveraged data from a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional sources, including existing datasets, reports from civil society organizations, legal documents, and social media to present a fuller picture of the effects of racism in an accessible and actionable manner.

Supporting the Development of Comprehensive and Responsive Social Protection Systems for the Resilience of Vulnerable Households
In partnership with ProsperIA and with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), this project aimed to create both preventive and responsive social protection systems against climate shocks and natural disasters in four Latin American countries: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Uruguay. An analysis of relevant data sources was conducted, followed by the development of a plan to access these data. Data science models were based on a strong methodological approach to develop preventive and responsive social protection systems. DPA led the knowledge exchange and outreach activities, including a webinar.
Criteria: An Interactive Decision Support System

Criteria, a project led by Prosperia with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and support from Data-Pop Alliance, is an interactive decision support system that empowers policy-makers to explore, analyze, and take decisions on the basis of a large number of potential designs and targeting schemes for social policies. Criteria uses microsimulations on survey and administrative data to visualize the expected poverty impact of policy alternatives resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as their associated costs.

Big Data to Address Global Development Challenges (Paper Series)

Four research papers were developed in collaboration with and funded by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) between 2016 and 2019 under a joint program with Data-Pop Alliance and research partners (Cloud to Street, Flowminder, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, MIT Media Lab, Overseas Development Institute) titled “Strengthening the evidence-base for leveraging Big Data to address global development challenges”. This research program and papers were designed with the following objectives and criteria in mind: to focus on various development challenges in different local contexts to ensure relevance; to work with trusted partners to ensure academic quality; and to both reflect and promote key determinants of sustainable development, including smoother, fairer, and safer access to data and stronger links between analysts, local decision-makers, and communities. Individually, these papers outlined specific cases and examples of how computational analysis of behavioral data (combined with other datasets) can paint a finer-grained, more complex, and dynamic picture of human reality than ‘traditional’ data allows. Collectively, they sketched the contours of a world where public decisions, in the form of policies and programs, might someday be designed, implemented, and evaluated using the best available data and approaches.

Support to the Inter-American Development Bank in the Identification of Technological and Big Data Tools for Current, Ongoing, and New IDB Projects

This project aimed to support the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in preparing for the IDB Andean Summit event held on November 29, 2018, in Quito, Ecuador. A study was generated that identified new Big Data tools being developed and/or used by academic institutions, international organizations, and the public or private sector that would concretely benefit current and future IDB projects. Based on DPA’s experience, the consultancy’s goal was to contribute to the IDB’s knowledge, identification, and capabilities regarding available technological tools that provided observable material improvements at different stages of current or future projects. The study focused on IDB projects in five countries in the region.

Scoping Study for a Comparative Research on Crime Risk Factors Using Big Data

A study published by the Open Society Foundations has reported numerous “atrocity crimes” perpetrated in Mexico against the civilian population since 2006. Against this backdrop, with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) support, DPA sought to gain better insights into organized and interpersonal crime, by undertaking a scoping study to build a comparative research study in two cities: one heavily affected by organized crime violence and another with low organized crime rates, where violence is mostly interpersonal. To this end, this scoping study aimed at building a research proposal for two cities, according to data availability (i.e. traditional and Big Data sources) and crime dynamics; suggested methodology, and potential partners.

Strengthening of Technical Capacities and a Regional Exploratory Study of Big Data for Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)

This project, developed with the support of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), aims to strengthen the technical capacities of government officials in LAC to leverage Big Data for sustainable development and official statistics. During the project’s first phase, the project sought to explain the panorama of Big Data and sustainable development in LAC, focusing on the applicability of sources to obtain statistical information related to issues such as poverty reduction, migration, and climate change. The training phase, based on the report stemming from the first phase, consists of 4 workshops (Big Data for Sustainable Development, Big Data and Poverty, Big Data and Health, Big Data and Security) to be held throughout 2022 and early 2023. These will focus on the applicability of non-traditional and traditional data sources and the applications of different data analysis tools such as satellite imagery, movement range maps and surveys to analyze and create projects to achieve the SDGs.