March 16 2023 GM

From TCU Wiki
Glitter Meetups

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IF Square on the TCU Mattermost, at 9am EDT / 1pm UTC. Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.

SocorroBot - A chatbot guide for reporting a missing person in México

In Mexico, an average of 15 people disappear every day. In this Glitter Meetup we will learn about SocorroBot, a Mexican tool which offers essential information and recommendations about the report of missing persons, depending on the profile of the disappeared person, the place where the event occurred, and from where this is reported. The tool was developed by Codeando México, Técnicas Rudas, and Quinto Elemento Lab. On this occasion we will also learn more about the initiative Codeando México.

Bio: Alma Rangel is the executive director of Codeando México, an open community-based organization that collaborates with people (technologists, activists, journalists, public officers) who are interested in using technology as a strategic tool in solving public problems.


Could you introduce yourself to the folks who are arriving in the room and how would you describe "Codeando México"?
  • My name is Alma (@almarngl on Mattermost), I work at Codeando Mexico. I'm an IR major but have been focusing on civic tech. Codeando Mexico is a community-based organization in Mexico that partners up with teams in the civic space to use tech and data for social justice projects. We work openly and in collaboration ALWAYS!
From your point of view, what would be the main challenges in México related to digital rights?
  • I would say lack of transparency, impunity, and a government that's actively spying on its citizens. A couple days ago some organizations here published #EjercitoEspía (spy army), this is the second investigation on the army spying on human rights defenders and journalists. Even if you are super safe with your digital practices, it's very hard to avoid
How do you do "profiling" on the missing person?
  • We worked on identifying the characteristics that determine how the reporting and searching process change: age, gender, nationality, where the person disappeared and where the person trying to look for them is
  • In Mexico we have different protocols, since this is a massive and systematic problem, and those are the main characteristics that change how to act
  • These characteristics also affect the reasons why that person potentially disappear
What should be considered before developing a project like this?
  • There's the additional problem that the public ministries also make the process more difficult for those who actually are trying to report
  • For us, it was very important to understand the communication and technological patterns of our end users. It isn't our technology of choice, but Whatsapp is the tool with the largest reach in the country and the one used by the collectives of family members of disappeared people. It is also important to consider having partners who are experts in the subject, we were lucky enough to collaborate with Quinto Elemento, who are journalists that specialize in this topic. We also collaborated with Tecnicas Rudas who work with collectives on a daily basis and with Yosune Chamizo who helped us with the information design aspect of the project
  • The three organizations had worked around this topic and we had a very concrete idea of the problem we wanted to tackle
  • The second thing I would say is that it's super important to think about sustainability since the design phase of the project. When dealing with such sensitive topics we wanted to be sure that the solution we built was something we could sustain on the long run, both in terms of the tech / data and the community component
So what kind of mechanism is in place to make sure that those "missing persons" are kidnapped by the government? and from your experience, which government body is responsible for those "things"?
  • That's actually also something we use in "profiling". It depends a lot, in Mexico we have cases of both federal and local governments participating in the disappearance of a person
  • So, it's not that WE make sure, it's the fact that we provide information to the person using the tool to identify what's different in each case
  • If the federal government participated and you try to report it on a local public ministry, they won't take your report and they won't explain where you have to go
  • What Socorro does is tell you exactly where to go according to your case, what your rights are (because even if you get there, sometimes they refuse attention), and recommendations from other people who have gone through the process
What programs or techniques did you use to make Socorrobot?
  • So, we tried to keep it as simple as possible. We are using TextIt to build the flows and connecting them to Whatsapp via Twilio, because up until a couple months ago we couldn't connect to WA directly
  • The most time consuming part of the project was actually gathering the data and designing the information flow, being sensitive of the issue itself and creating a balance in terms of what you have to do "on paper" and what has worked for other family members
What helped you figure out that? Talking to family, cases, etc?
  • Yes, we had a lot of sessions with collectives and then we also had to do freedom of information requests, interviews with experts on the subject, and gathering data ourselves
  • information such as the address or phone number of the institutions you have to go to were not available and we had to map them out in every state
  • plus the information of offices abroad that handle cases of people who are migrating
Could you explain the relation between migration cases and missing people?
  • Yeah, so, the tool works for people who have disappeared within the Mexican borders. A lot of people who are passing through Mexico to cross the border disappear on the way. It was very important for us to also provide information for family members in other countries, particularly Central America
  • The problem is so persistent that consulates receive reports for disappearances in other countries
  • If someone in Guatemala wants to report a missing person in Mexico, we also tell them were to go and what they need to do so
Have you received feedback from users or organizations? Could you share some insights?
  • Yes, during the past 6 months we have been having feedback sessions in different states in the country. They have provided a lot of recommendations that we have been adding to the tool
  • The most important one was the migration status flow, we had to adjust a lot of the materials for this particular case
  • They also provide UX recommendations
  • I think the best part has been watching people who have already gone through the process be excited that something like this exists right now. We had a case where the father of a missing woman is a taxi driver, he was so excited by the tool that he printed out flyers to give away in his taxi
  • We also keep an open channel with them so that they can report if the see any mistakes or wrong data in the flow
What are the main 2023 plans for SocorroBot and Codeando Mexico?
  • For SocorroBot we want to add a new flow on long term cases, and continue doing community building and communication around the tool
  • For Codeando, we are also very excited about a couple new projects: gathering public transportation data which in many cases doesn't exist in Mexico and opening up local Congresses data
Would you like to share your contact (mail, Twitter, or what works better for you) to the community members, just in case somebody wants to reach you?

You can reach me at @almarngl in TW and via email