Notes from Rio: towards a more collaborative city.

This week, Brazil reached 7,025 deaths from covid-19 and 101,147 cases were confirmed, according to the Ministry of Health.

São Paulo remains the state with the highest number of official cases. There are 31,772 cases, 2,627 deaths. Rio de Janeiro is next, with 11,138 cases and 1,019 deaths.

But official registers are underreported, the proportion of people tested is very low, the numbers of deaths are estimated to be 3 times higher and cases 15 times higher.

Despite the chaos, the federal government proves to be negligent and the fight against the pandemic has been taking place based on local governments, supportive and collaborative initiatives.

In the midst of coronavirus pandemic, Brazil also lives economic and political crisis

To understand the current situation in Brazil, we need to consider the political events of the past few years.

Brazil is a rich country, the eighth economy in the world, but certainly one of the greatest inequalities in the world. The six richest in the country together concentrate the same wealth as the poorest 100 million in the country, that is, half the population.

In 2016, the country suffered a parliamentary coup through the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. The president, democratically elected in 2014, continued the 13 years of the Workers’ Party government, which implemented social welfare policies and defended the monopoly on the exploitation of the pre-salt reserves, reversing oil profits to social investments.

She was impeached in 2016, and from then on, a transitional government began to implement neoliberal policies, with less rights for the people, privatization of state-owned companies and a freeze for 20 years of public investments.

In 2018, a far-right government, elected despite numerous reports of fraud and fake news was instituted. The current government works from an insane polarization between “patriots against communists“.

The result in recent years has been:

  • Record number of unemployed: 11.6% in February, reaching 12.3 million Brazilians.
  • Increase of the homeless population.
  • Foreign capital flight — only on the São Paulo Stock Exchange, the flight of foreign capital reached US $ 44.5 billion in 2019.
  • Currency devaluation; 1 USD = 5.49 Brazilian Real.

All of this says a lot about the current situation during the pandemic.

President Jair Bolsonaro Photo: ADRIANO MACHADO / REUTERS

Pandemic in Rio de Janeiro

Since the end of March the shops in Rio de Janeiro are closed and only essential services such as pharmacies and the markets have authorization to operate. The use of face masks has become mandatory in the city and there are restrictions on the use of public transport. Trains are only accessible to essential service workers.

Selaron Steps in Lapa, tourist spots are closed to avoid crowds

One of the main and most stressful problem in combating covid-19 is the lack of consensus with the federal government. The president tries to minimize the effects of the pandemic and keep trade open from an inhuman view of the economy. Although the Ministry of Health recommends isolation and it has been decreed by local governments, the country’s president has publicly declared himself against social distancing and has gone so far as to say in a national statement that it is “just a flu”.

In Rio, Neighborhoods where their supporters are the majority are at the top of coronavirus contagions and deaths.

In addition, at a time when many were already unemployed and homeless, the policy of isolation has reached a maximum of 49% of people at home in recent weeks.

In the last weeks we have had an exponential growth in the number of infected, and this week the public health system started to collapse.

How might we deepen local connections, keeping social distancing?

Social distancing has become the only effective solution to prevent the spread of the covid-19. It creates a basic question of survival: How to keep isolated without resources?

Lapa, Rio de Janeiro

The government has been negligent and the main initiatives to support isolation have been collaborative:

  • Rio Contra Corona ( Rio against Corona)

In Rio de Janeiro one of the main initiatives is Rio Contra Corona, an action managed by non-governmental organizations emerged from the articulations of the União Rio movement, which has several fronts to minimize the impacts of virus.

Communities urgently need to receive basic items for prevention against coronavirus and then other demands that will arise.

To this end, Rio Contra Corona seeks to mobilize the government, companies and civil society to obtain donations that reach communities in Rio de Janeiro.

  • Public Notice for Artists

Cultural Foundations are promoting public notices for artists supporting the production of content such as lives, podcasts and online courses.

  • Emergency Basic Income

For the time being the only government aid initiative for the low-income population. The proposal provides for the guarantee of a basic income for the next 3 months to allow informal, self-employed workers who are prevented from carrying out their activities to remain isolated at home. A tiny help of R$ 600 per month, approximately 100 USD. The request for the benefit and receipt are made through an app, but a lot of people are having problems to finalize the process and so far many did not receive the emergency basic income.

Closed stores

Towards a Human, Smart and Sustainable City

The pandemic highlighted the ineffectiveness of neoliberal policies.

The ineffectiveness of governments opened space for the strengthening of local networks.

Social impact initiatives are empowered and aim to strengthen the public and collaborative sense.

Important highlights are:

  • Public Universities have developed affordable and open source projects for respirators, diagnostic kits and face masks.
  • The public health system, despite the immense difficulties, guarantees free care to all citizens. The pandemic provoked the growing support of public opinion so that the public health system can be strengthened.
  • Initiatives from non-governmental organizations are protagonists in guaranteeing basic resources such as food and basic hygiene items for vulnerable populations.

The moment accelerates some changes that were already underway. People have been reconsidering their needs. During the quarantine period, we noticed the exponential growth of online shopping, highlighting the delivery professionals and the consolidation of digital.

Interestingly, in the best seller “The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons and the Eclipse of Capitalism”, author Jeremy Rifkin predicts that the third Industrial Revolution is on its way and describes how the emerging Internet of Things is leading us to an era of almost free goods and services, precipitating the meteoric rise of a global Collaborative Commons and the eclipse of capitalism.

Perhaps the pandemic speed up this process: the eclipse of capitalism due to the situation of a global quarantine opens space to improve an economic system based on collaborative commons goods.

It is also interesting to note that many initiatives are working with design methodologies in the development of social impact. The application of human-centered design places the citizen as a protagonist in the development of public policies thinking and developing a city more focused on the people’s needs.

As Peter Drucker said, the best way to predict the future is to create it. So despite the dramatic and chaotic situation that we are living during the pandemic, observing the strengthening of digital, social and collaborative initiatives, brings the optimism to predict a city that in the next years will develop more human, smart and sustainable.

The legacy of that moment can be a city that develops as a community that systematically promotes the complete well-being of all its residents and, proactively and sustainably, is able to transform itself into an increasingly better place for people to live, work, study and have fun.

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