Brazil’s Smartphone Census

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Category : Development, Digital, Six Oranges

It is a country that has high levels of poverty and inequality and asks its citizens on the very first page of the national census if they use a hole in the ground or open cesspit for a toilet. Yet despite all of these obstacles, the Brazilian government has embarked on the world’s first fully digital national census.

It has achieved this ahead of countries like the US whose digital trials failed and resulted in it reverting to an old-fashioned paper based census. The Brazilian census is another example of how developing and emerging countries are using technology to address the challenges they face and leapfrogging developed countries. Click here to see a picture slide show of the socio-economic and political issues of the Brazil 2010 census.

The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), who conducted the survey, opted for off the shelf technology. It ordered 150,000 LG 750 GM smartphones which are widely available and retail at around £180 (US$280). Census interviewers collected responses onto the smartphones which in turn were used to send the data via GPS to one of 7,000 data collection units.

The Brazilians say that the digital census has several advantages over paper and pen methods. They say that the data is more accurate since GPS data will pinpoint the exact location of a household. The GPS data is cross-referenced with satellite images to ensure that responses are correctly geo-tagged. The digital approach allows changes to areas, streets and buildings to be incorporated. This is particularly pertinent in the slums as these areas tend to change quickly and their density mean that printed maps are quickly out of date. The use of digital technology means that mapping is considerably more accurate and that adjustments and changes can be made all the time to ensure that the coverage is as comprehensive as possible.

IBGE estimates that upto 5 per cent of households are incorrectly located in traditional censuses compared with 0.5 per cent of digital data. The census allows data to be collected from remote areas with digital data collection being easier and more robust than paper-based ones. It will ensure that previously hard to reach communities are included in the census for the first time.

The mapping technology also allows for more detailed information on the spatial distribution of public resources such as schools and health centres relative to the density and need of the people and communities around them. The census is also considerably cheaper and is environmentally friendly with the need for paper reduced to a minimum. The budget for the entire survey is R$ 1.67 billion (US$909 million) for a population of 58 million households. Compare this with the US where CNN.com suggests its census will cost US$14 billion for a population that is just one-third greater than that of Brazil’s.

Technology experts say that the US’s digital approach failed because Harris Corporation, the organisation hired for the job, failed because it looked to develop a bespoke hardware device to collect data. Brazil on the other hand had only to develop bespoke software and applications for its computers and smartphones.

Asked about the security and reliability of the data collection, Eduardo Nunes, IBGE President said that data is collected and backed up on the smartphones on two separate memory drives and that data transmitted to collection centres is immediately backed up with integrity tests. Mr Nunes said interviewers experienced little resistance not least because where possible they were recruited from within their communities. He added that paper censuses can get lost too and that their approach had been tested on other surveys since 2007. IBGE

IBGE will also benefit from the faster turnaround of data with the first tranche of data available in months rather than years.

The Government has invested in the digital approach not only to save money but also because it will be central to designing better public policy.

Mr Nunes said: “ Greater emphasis in the 2010 census was given to information on social and demographic spheres. We want to know when and how Brazil will be able to reach the Millennium Development Goals for 2015.”

Marcia Lopes, minister for Social Development said that many social programmes bring basic services such as electricity, health and education to the population: “This census is so important because we in the Government need to know what the population needs.”

Click here to see a picture slide show of the socio-economic and political issues of the Brazil 2010 census.

Six Oranges Documentary: Bangladeshi Migrant Workers in Dubai

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Category : Multimedia, Six Oranges, Video, news


My colleagues at Six Oranges have co-produced a new documentary which is directed by Goya award winner David Munoz. Tres Tristes Tigres (Three Sad Tigers) is the story about three migrants from the rural village of Rajbari, Bangladesh who travelled to the Middle East to seek their fortunes. Like many migrants they are at the mercy of middlemen and agents and are often exploited. The three tigers, in their own words, describe how their hopes were shattered by the ruthlessness of unscrupulous middlemen. It’s simply told, beautifully shot and is a very strong piece of storytelling.

We were in the London Evening Standard

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Category : Six Oranges, Street Art, news

Six Oranges, the production company of which I am co-founder and partner, had a story in the London Evening Standard newspaper last night.

We’ve been working on a documentary which looks at the transformation and regeneration of Brick Lane and Shoreditch in the East End of London – especially through art, migration and gentrification.

It’s a very hip and trendy area (disclosure – I live there!) and has attracted many people over the centuries. Historically, it has always been an area where migrants have settled – from the Huguenots in the 18th century to the Jewish community in the 19th and 20th centuries to the Bangladeshis in the 20th.

Now we have the street artists, economic migrants, and fashion victims all rubbing shoulders in the area.

The spoils from the area’s recent gentrification are not equal. Some have opened businesses and are making a fortune despite the economic recession. In fact – I reckon there are more businesses open here now than before the economic crash.

But, scratch the surface, and you’ll find people living in desperate conditions. We met a group of Romanians who were living in a condemned building which was barely 12 square-metres in size. They were working for a local businessman and when the work was done – they were told to bugger off.

At the same time – the vibrancy of the area comes through in many ways. A very public version is through the street art. Six Oranges has been working with local street artists in the creation of a documentary to record and capture a snapshot of this change.

We’d sought permission to get a Belgian street artist by the name of ROA (who by the way is a really decent and humble guy)  to create the largest piece of street art in London. He completed it this week and it really is a stunning piece of work. It literally stopped the traffic. We got a piece in the Evening Standard about it.

But like the area, street art is transitory, a place where things come and go to be replaced by someone or something else.  And this piece will disappear when the site is used to build a hotel. I really suggest you go and see it (Hanbury Street) along with the other street art there. I will be offering tours in the near future. ;-)