7 Apps Hoping to Change Latin America

Flickr/CC/Blake Patterson

By Santiago Martínez

        Smartphones changed our world. They changed how we interact, how we administer our finances, how we travel and how we get our news. Mobile applications play a huge role in these changes as they  combine accessible interfaces and attractive designs with creative use of mobile data. So, if used right, could apps change societies? These next apps sure attempt to do so, as their Latin American developers venture into innovation, creativity and, above all, social impact. The apps focus on various issues, ranging from nutrition to transparency and have one thing in common: the desire to bring improvements to a complex region in the world. 

  1.     allGreenUp – Chile

Environmental issues are a concern all over the world. The main difficulty is trying to coordinate individual efforts to protect our environment. Chilean Javier Luongo and his team developed an app trying to solve this problem through three functions: monitor individual environmental impact, inform the user and provide discounts to environmental-friendly people. Through a point-based system, you are able to earn discounts depending on the actions you take to take care of the planet.

  1.     colab.re – Brazil

In healthy democracies, most people forget that besides transparency, rule of law and security there is another simple, yet crucial, characteristic: a healthy, thorough communication between the government and the citizens. Bruno Aracaty, founder of colab.re, understood this. He developed an app with his team in which the citizen post report issues, suggest solutions and even rate governmental actions. Governments, on the other hand, respond to suggestions, ratings and so forth. This app is not only helpful for citizens, but also for government institutions. Using colab.re they can make polls and promote direct engagement between voters and the administration. It is now working in several municipalities in Brazil, hoping to expand to the rest of the country.

  1.     Oincs – Uruguay

Colab.re demonstrates how democracies can become healthier through government-citizen communication, but citizen-citizen communication is just as essential. The Uruguayan app Oincs attempts to bring about security in the road through live reports made by other drivers, not only communicating traffic jams, red lights and so forth, but also crime and security. Marcelo Wilkorowski and Rafael Cavestany were the developers of this project, which was based off of Twitter account @chanchosuy that reported traffic issues on the road.

  1.     CIVICO – Colombia

CIVICO is a Colombian attempt to make Bogotá, Santiago and Mexico City lively communities where the people themselves upload their favourite places, libraries, coffee shops, movie theaters, fast food stands, etc. With also a point-based system involving missions, they offer discounts depending on the amount of places you discover in the city AND that is verified by the developers themselves. This is a great way to make people interactive with each other and make the cities themselves as part of them as they are part of the city. That is how you build a community of millions of people, my friends.

Flickr/CC/Jesus del Toro Garcia
Flickr/CC/Jesus del Toro Garcia
  1.     Colombia Games: SIA Collection – Colombia

Ok, so we cheated. This is not one SINGLE app, per se, but in fact, a collection of apps that have the same objective: to get back in touch with the indigenous identity. Through the SIA (Ancestral Indigenous Knowledge) Collection, these apps introduce kids to the different ethnicities in Colombia, their languages, their myths and their different stories. They make the approach attractive, appealing and even mystical, in some ways. Sadly, Latin American indigenous groups are usually marginalized, economically and socially, but this is just one great step in order for different communities to link again.

  1.     Manuvo – México

So yes, we are cheating twice in a row. Sue us. Manuvo is not an app, but a digital media company, and a unique one indeed. They are composed from programmers to storytellers and even anthropologists. Their whole purpose is to enrich people’s lives with “digital experiences”. These include learning an indigenous language through beautiful animation and effective lessons, developing the digital interface of an ancient Aztec Codex, animating literary marvels of poets such as Octavio Paz and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and providing digital resources for mathematics courses for children. The vast variety, yet the single purpose of “enriching life”, is how the Mexican company got in the list.

  1.     Dilo Aquí – Venezuela

A great effort to fight off rampant corruption, NGO “Transparencia Venezuela”, sponsored by Transparency International, launched an app that allows for the user to send live reports of corrupt practices. The app allows for people to report on different categories, from real estate to health and public services using notes, video, and pictures, that can be used as evidence. This demonstrates how a cell phone becomes a weapon against malpractices and corruption, empowering citizens to change what they don’t like about the system. Cleaning up Venezuela, one report at a time.