FITS Mexico 2019: Good Causes with Technology
FITS Mexico 2019 (FITS/mx) took place last friday, September 20th, in the Spanish Cultural Center in Mexico, back-to-back with the Metropolitan Cathedral. This 5th edition of the Social Innovation and Technology Festival in Mexico (there have been 15 editions in South America) once again pushed support of technological resources towards the social economy. If we understand that the public and private sectors are separate entities, resourced on one side by private clients and on the other side by the state, it will be easy for us to define a social economy pushed and promoted by the civic society’s support to set it in motion. In other words, this is the sector in which NGOs (Non-government organizations) function. NGOs have very distinctive characteristics: it’s an institutional organization, a private entity, without goals for profit, with self-governing infrastructure, whose operational success is based upon the support of volunteers.
Lab and experimentation
For the past few years, Telefónica has organized a project called “Laboratorio de Ciudadanía Digital” (“Digital Citizenship Laboratory”) in this emblematic space of the Spanish community and its Mexican collaborators. The event is a learning platform that mixes art, culture, and science with Information and Communication Technologies, to influence the development of effective citizens. It’s geared towards girls, boys, teens, and young adults from Mexico City and its surrounding areas, as well as those dedicated to non-formal public education of digital cultural alphabetization. Since 2014, over 50,000 individuals have attended, participating in workshops, project presentations, concerts, investigative findings, community bicycle rides, and mobile app use. The Lab’s activities covered 45 nodes in Mexico City, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Guerrero, Veracruz, and Morelos. Based on this overwhelming success, the Festival has been organized to continue building upon the achievements and possibilities of applied technology, in favor of the social sector that has been silently covering more ground. More and more, it demands the participation of other actors in the national economy. The snake is starting to bite its own tail…
Wingu, the company in charge of organizing this FITS edition, aims for the social use of technology. One of its main contributions is a series of auto administrable web pages. Its slogan for this occasion pleads: “Connect your cause with technology.” And, effectively, this proposal creates a forum that unites change-oriented and socially-minded people. They can use this platform to kick-start their ideas, linking with businesses ready to support their projects through digital tools, systems, and solutions. This year, some of the Festival’s themes were: Blockchain for Beginners, Red Cross Transmedia Experiences, Digital Citizenship, Disruptive Projects, Mapbox: Civic Technology, Cases of Digital Transformation, Civic Technology vs Corruption, Crowdfunding, and Benefits and Risks of Artificial Intelligence.
Networking / Calmecac
Something that was genuinely interesting to me during the hours that I roamed through the FITS spaces at the CCE, was that I chatted with fascinating people about social topics. More, they shared with me about their own projects, while we had the snacks and drinks generously donated by the organizers. That’s how I met a couple of students from the Iberoamerican University. They wanted to know how to strengthen their project, the “Juridical Clinic for Refugees,” a school initiative that’s looking for sponsored funding in order to do more. Later, I talked with a kind Venezuelan, who was attracted to the event by a workshop about data visualization in support of public spaces (which ended up filling entirely, due to all the interest generated). We bumped into each other on the fabulous terrace that leads to the back part of the Cathedral; and while she told me that she works in the Economic and Budget Investigation Center A.C., I dared to share a strange detail with her. I told Ydalmys, this girl’s sonorous name, that below the CCE are the ruins of the old Calmecac: a school of the indigenous Aztec nobility. Here, children of the prehispanic aristocracy were trained to leverage power; and now, we are members of a different elite class: one cultural and entrepreneurial, which learns to serve others on top of these ruins. I said goodbye to her, and neared another stand where a boy, Paul, made me reflect about how our information travels through the internet. He gave me a clear and attractive pamphlet, and told me that he studied IT in Guadalajara, and that he came to Mexico City pursuing the “Chilango dream.” He found that UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) has a much more complete and focused academic level than that of his native state. He invited me to learn more about his project with SocialTic, and we finished up talking about The Great Hack, a documentary more or less about the topic in question.
After my experience in FITS Mexico 2019, I realized that the value of technology is based upon giving solution to everyday people, with a beneficial and useful finish– digital humanism, we could call it, without forgetting that there is still much to do before technology is the art and science that truly helps human beings achieve a balanced and satisfactory life. I left CCE with a good taste in my mouth, but with a number of questions that I hope to answer in future articles. They will move towards analyzing to what point the social economy’s needs have been met through social technology, and what are the opportunities in which a business like WebCreek could connect the dots still pending solution.