VicTEAMS: A Tool To Empower Citizens Through Information in Venezuela
VicTEAMS International is a non-profit that seeks to promote, reinforce, and support initiatives that use Technologies of Information and Communication to enhance the transparency, efficiency and above all, the civic participation in public administration and planning.
Its first main project is the collection of crime data in Venezuela and the empowerment of civil society and organizations to use it.
Crime has become the main problem perceived by Venezuelans in the last decade. Last year ended with over 16.047 homicides, but only about 40% of those victims denounced the crime. Because intimidation and lack of rule of law, it is hard for there to be any real information about what’s going on. The blurriness around the problem only ignites more violence and impunity. The consequences of violence in a society are well known: the loss of public spaces and social structure created by violence leaves citizens even more marginalized, unorganized and vulnerable. Even more so, self-censorship is also on the rise due to fear.
Despite all, one window of opportunity seemed to open up. The use of Internet in Venezuela is a fast growing trend, with one third of the country as users. There are almost 7 million Venezuelans using Facebook, and many more with cell phones.
Taking advantage of this, VicTEAMS is born as an application aiming to collect statistical data regarding crime and violence and making that information more available to the public. It is currently based on Facebook and will soon be independently on the web, relying on user-generated content for its growth and success. Through viral spread in schools, communities and the Internet, it reaches out to the entire country.
VicTEAMS offers many advantages that make it a successful tool in fighting crime and misinformation. First of all, it assures the victims’ anonymity, which will encourage him/ her to come forward; second, its technology is protected to minimize fraud in the data collection; and third, its social power helps address the collective action problem by connecting and organizing people around a topic of interest.
That data that’s collected through VicTEAMS can then be used for different things. It can help citizens organize around prevention, so they can know where and when are the crimes occurring near their common routes and destinations; it can be an instrument of vigilance, so communities and schools have a better understanding of the crime situation within their space; and further more, it can be a call for political action, putting pressure on local governments and demanding results from the State with evidence at hand. At the end, it strives for transparency in public issues.
VicTEAMs has been on the web for less than a year, but because of the positive feedback so far, we are hoping it will soon become a strong force of change.
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