Lorena Moscovich - Head of Experimentation - AccLabUNDP Argentina
Developing-States’ Resilience and Bottom-up solutions. Emergent Trends in Argentina and Around
One World, United
We have no memories of an event that has affected almost the whole planet in such a fast fashion as the COVID-2019 outbreak. In less than three months, almost all countries, even the more distant and isolated ones, are facing the challenge to deal with the spread of the infection, and its still unknown social and economic effects. In this sense, the response to the thread has united the whole world.
The broad scope of this crisis may be also an opportunity to learn. The outbreak can be seen as a massive natural experiment, by which an exogenous very unusual event allows us to better understand some causal relations we would not have been able to see in other situations. For instance, we may be able to explore in the near future issues such as the effects of carbon emissions of the massive reduction of air travel and economic activity, the endurable effects of quarantines and lockdowns in behavior -i.e. physical distance and the use of internet based social interactions-, the increase of levels of government surveillance and the erosion of some liberties, among others.
More generally, in all countries this crisis has rocketed state responses and bottom-up innovations whose effects are worth to analyze. Also it was a call for action for the Accelerator Labs.
Emerging Responses in the Archipelago of State Capacity
Some countries prevented or (if was too late) are coping with the COVID-2019 outbreak more rapidly and efficiently than others. What explains these differences? For instance, Taiwan was extremely successful, with just around 100 cases, when only 130 kms away, there were 8000. Its results are explained by the proactive testing and by the use of big data. Also relying on technology, the case of South Korea shows how effective a central state that manages to decentralize its reach can be. It tests at street level, locates infected people and controls (and enforces) their isolation.
Sometimes innovation and rapid response come from the “unusual suspects”. When in some developed countries it took days to have the results of the tests, during the same early weeks of the outbreak outside China, Senegal had them in a few hours. State responses are also related to previous experiences that allowed countries to build endurable local networks and develop specific knowledge. Thus, sometimes they are more able to deal with the crisis than countries with more resources. For instance, a few years ago, Nigeria’s rapid and effective response to the spread of Ebola built on several improvements the country had developed in response to Polio. In these cases, innovation nurtures from islands of excellence within the archipelago of resources and deficiencies from developing countries.
Developing countries face a tricky tradeoff when they must compensate the lack of health infrastructure with severe preventive measures that anticipate further slowdown of their economies. In this sense, the strategy of Argentina was to establish one of the hardest preventive lockdowns around the world, resulting in the suspension of all economic activities for a month trying to prevent a massive infection of its population.
All this shows the interdependence of sustainability. Wealthier countries can aid less developed ones, while the latter can be better equipped and teach lessons to deal with different crises.
Connecting the Dots: Technology and Bottom-up Innovations to Deal with the Effects of the Outbreak in Argentina
The variety and severity of the problems brought by the outbreak are overwhelming, but the sheer number of proposals that appear, many of which will be unfeasible, can be misleading as well. The effort of the Argentine Acceleration Lab, the Co_Lab, is focused on connecting the dots, bridging innovations with decision-makers, and identifying and accelerating the best ones.
In Argentina the Accelerator Lab is mapping grassroots solutions to cope with the outbreak and the unintended consequences of the lockdown. These solutions, related with the development of technology or the manufacturing of basic supplies, such as masks or ventilators, are emerging to complement the governmental efforts.
Other solutions focus on risk populations, the delivery of basic supplies when mobility is limited, the economic support of self-employees, informal workers and small shops. The mapping includes a collaboration with Yunus Foundation, along with HUB, Socialab, and Banca de Inversión Sostenible to organize a hackathon to gather solutions in Latin America.
Also we explored different prototypes of apps for the self-assessment of the symptoms to keep the population calm and avoid overcrowding health facilities. In Argentina, the government launched its own app for the detection of Coronavirus. However, we are sharing with other countries and exploring other potential uses of the app developed by El Gato y La Caja.
The UNDP Co_Lab has partnered with the Resident Coordinator Office, UNWomen and UNvolunteers in Argentina, to launch the “Pay in Advance” initiative. Pay now use after the lockdowns finish, in order to secure income for self-employed people and small entrepreneurs in countries under lockdown.
Other laboratories have also undertaken initiatives of this kind and are analyzing the feasibility of their implementation in their countries.
Lastly, in severe isolation even regular payments can be a problem. Another action will be an educational campaign to facilitate payments in the context of lockdown for people who are not familiar with tools such as the use of ATMs, electronic transfers or new cash points for those who do not have a bank account -they have this new tool to get cash-.
At the apex of the outbreak, we are trying to give a quick response to find the best solutions; this is one of the responsibilities of Acceleration Laboratories. We are one world responding to a unique challenge, let's work together.