Poopoozap: a Citizen-Generated Data project for achieving transformation in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas

by Vitor Mihessen and Inés Gortari, Casa Fluminense and Gilberto Vieira, data_labe 

At the end of 2016, we at Casa Fluminense and data_labe began to design a project together – Poopoozap. This partnership was kickstarted after winning the first DataShift Community Seed Funding Challenge, organised by CIVICUS. Our winning proposal combined two global concepts – citizen-generated data (CGD) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by creating a communication channel to denounce, debate and propose solutions for achieving basic sanitation, based on participative maps on waste collection and sewage in favelas and urban peripheries in metropolitan Rio de Janeiro.

The “data revolution” we propose is based on local inhabitants’ commitment and capacity to advocate for public policies. Through WhatsApp, they will be able to send us videos and photos in order for us to locate and make visible the daily challenges of unequal access to public services and infrastructure. Based on the data generated we will create new narratives around the topic, illustrated with infographics, videos and articles. This whole process will include young communicators from low-income areas by involving them in capacity-building workshops and mobilisation initiatives with local organisations from Rio’s favelas.

We believe that through collaborative, horizontal and easily replicable processes, we can construct honest data that better reflects the true state of sanitation in Rio’s favelas in contrast to so-called official indicators used by public authorities. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE in Portuguese), 90% of residences in Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Region have waste collection and sewage treatment. We know that this is not true. Citizen-generated data can contribute towards creating legitimate solutions, based on evidence provided precisely by those who experience the poor conditions the official data fails to show.

Civic engagement is crucial to fight for public policies that are more representative and inclusive and that these are elaborated in more integrated and participative ways. “Citizen-generated data” refers to information produced by people and organisations to monitor demand and promote transformations on issues that affect them. Projects aiming for social transformation can be bolstered by crowdsourcing mechanisms or communication initiatives such as this one, taking advantage of the strong ties civil society groups have with local communities.

Without a doubt, constructing databases using information from people’s day-to-day lives is a recent phenomenon that is gaining worldwide momentum. Firstly, because these databases are easy to “feed” from the daily activities that people engage in and who are not always aware of wider political contexts that affect their socio-economic wellbeing. Secondly, and better still, because such databases can activate people’s participation and can raise their awareness on the importance of establishing a culture of monitoring, they can thereby foster more participative democracies.

Given this context, the pilot project Poopoozap will be implemented along the Cunha Channel, where the favela complex of Maré is located, one of the biggest in Rio de Janeiro. It is located between Rio’s international airport and the Federal University (UFRJ), yet its socioeconomic indicators are much lower than the people who frequent these two other areas. The idea is for this project to inspire new solutions for old challenges, by focussing on basic sanitation, but aiming for the sustainable development of the area as a whole.

Let us not forget that our city hosted two United Nations Conferences, Earth Summit in 1992, and, 20 years later, Rio+20 which was where the seeds for Agenda 2030 were sown. Yet we have not yet been effectively monitoring its implementation. We need to become involved in this supra-party discussion and we firmly believe that this will only be possible by including the population in a wide-ranging and transparent manner.

We will use the citizen-generated data to press for policies that are targeted at citizens in their diversity, paying special attention to and guaranteeing the full rights of those who have historically been left behind. However, to realise this vision, our proposal is looking for partners. All types of support are welcome, whether it is building the data and narratives platform, or contributing to the maintenance of the youths’ capacity-building activities, or even suggesting potential partners. We are counting on the DataShift Community and wider data for development network so would be thrilled to hear from you.

Contact:

Vitor Mihessen, Casa Fluminense: vitormihessen@casafluminense.org.br

Inés Gortari, Casa Fluminense, ines@casafluminense.org.br

Gilberto Vieira, data_labe: gilberto.observatorio@gmail.com 

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