Blog Post

The way we move in our cities

Technology has changed many things in our lives, the way we communicate, learn, do research and even the way we move around in our cities. An example of this is the application Waze, which allows the user to know where there is traffic, accidents and which is fastest way to somewhere. In the end is a collective knowledge of the best way to move around your city. These maps can be built to show anything, you could be mapping corruption, violence and youth in troubles or anything else. Great examples can be found in the page of Crowdmap.

            In the case of Guatemala civic movement call Jovenes Contra la Violencia (Youth against violence) created such a map; that shows in which parts of the cities robberies are committed.

You can find both the group and the map at these links:

            This project started last year, when Jovenes Contra la Violencia (JVC) put scarecrows dressed as policemen around Guatemala City in the areas where more robberies happened, so that they would scare the muggers in theses areas. At the end, the police took the Espatacacos (Scaremuggers) away stating that using the police uniform that way was against the law. Finally this event opened the way to the creation of the virtual map. The main idea is that people can send SMS or make report directly on their webpage and so they create a database about where they have been or seen somebody get mugged.

            In this way other people know which streets and avenues in the city are more dangerous and can be more careful there. On my last entry I also argue that civic movements, NGO’s and governmental institutions should work together for the betterment of society as a whole. This map can prove to be an excellent opportunity to such collaboration. The authorities could and should use this information do deploy policemen in these parts of the city to assure de security of the citizen. In case of the mayor’s office it could use the information of Waze to react to accidents and problems on the road.

            The thing about using this type of applications, specifically Waze, is that you cannot control who has access to the information and it shows where other users are, more or less. If a mugger has access to it, he would be able to localize in which areas there are more smartphones on focus on stealing there. The only way I can think of solving this thing out is to change your privacy settings so that your location wouldn’t show up on the map, but that wouldn’t guarantee your security. The other thing here is that these applications allow the government to have more control of how people move around and could use it against the will of the people. Last year it existed a webpage where different people told everyone in which parts of the city was safe to drive faster and where were the policemen so that no one would get caught speeding. What happen was that the mayor’s office started following this page, and would send more policemen to these areas.

            Finally, technology can help people to move around the city in a smarter way and let the authorities be more efficient at their work. There is the privacy issues, but escapes my capacity, so I won’t say there is a solution, there may be many that can be discussed.



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