Tech Roundup, Dec. 20, 2019 | Robots already a reality in Brazilian courts

lawtech Robots already a reality in Brazilian courts Image: Salomé Gloanec/The Brazilian Report

You’re reading The Brazilian Report‘s weekly tech roundup, a digest of the most important news on technology and innovation in Brazil. This week’s topics: Should Brazil allow robots to act as judges? The Mormon project to digitize Brazil’s immigration records. And the startup that wants to lower companies’ costs on employee transportation.


Robots already a reality in Brazilian courts

In March of this year, a man filed suit against a restaurant in the state of Bahia that overcharged him BRL 2.06—roughly 50 U.S. cents. He won the lawsuit, receiving a further BRL 300 in compensation. The case is a prime example of how much Brazilians love litigation, with the rate of cases per 1,000 people being five times higher than in Germany, Sweden, Austria, or Israel.

</p> <p>With a backlog of over 80 million lawsuits, courts can&#8217;t handle their caseload, and have opened themselves to automating part of the process with the use of robots. The so-called <a href="https://brazilian.report/tech/2019/02/15/legaltech-brazil-bureaucracy/">legaltech sector has grown rapidly in Brazil</a>, increasing fivefold from 30 companies in mid-2017 to 150 in early 2019. Their scope of activity ranges from helping people to draft contracts, assisting lawyers in their case law research, to even some solutions aiming at replacing, bit by bit, judges for robots.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>Over 70 percent of new cases get backlogged, and costs with litigation in Brazil amount to 1.4 percent of GDP. Cases last an average of six years—or even decades when they move up to superior courts.</p> <p><strong>Judges v. robots.</strong> Five Brazilian states and three superior courts—including the Supreme Court—have either already implemented some sort of automation in dealing with cases or are planning to do so. Here are a few examples:</p> <ul><li><strong>Rio Grande do Norte.</strong> The upper state court developed the Poti bot with students from the University of Rio Grande do Norte to help in cases of tax foreclosure and property levy. While a human processes about 300 cases a month, Poti manages one every 35 seconds.</li><li><strong>Pernambuco.</strong> The Elis bot deals with tax foreclosure cases (53 percent of the backlog). In 15 days it can handle a bigger workload than the court can manage in 18 months.</li><li><strong>Rio.</strong> A program dedicated to finding out of court solutions for healthcare cases has reportedly allowed for savings of BRL 90 to 200 million in Rio&#8217;s top state court, after avoiding 50,000 cases that didn&#8217;t need to go to trial.</li><li><strong>Supreme Court.</strong> The top court in the land wants to implement a program called Vitor, which helps justices to sort cases—suggesting relevant case law. It will also suggest text to be used in sentences. The court expects to reduce the length of its cases by 60 percent.</li></ul> <p><strong>Benchmark.</strong> Estonia is developing a <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/can-ai-be-fair-judge-court-estonia-thinks-so/">project for robot judges to rule on minor cases</a>. But the tiny Baltic nation is a very particular case—it has only 1.3 million citizens, mostly connected to e-services of the state, such as e-voting and digital tax returns.</p> <p><strong>Controversy.</strong> The Rio de Janeiro chapter of the Brazilian Bar Association has positioned itself against the use of machines, highlighting “the risks of the non-critical dependence on algorithms.” Of course, lawyers are not uninterested in the debate, as their jobs could be placed on the line in the near future.</p> <p><strong>Gray area.</strong> The 1988 Constitution already discussed the risks of automation, with one article foreseeing a law regulating protections for affected workers. But Congress never regulated the issue.&nbsp;</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>The Mormon church to trace immigrants in Brazil</h2> <p>On December 17, Brazil&#8217;s National Archives <a href="http://www.arquivonacional.gov.br/br/ultimas-noticias/1997-an-e-familysearch-firmam-acordo-para-digitalizar-acervos-sobre-estrangeiros">signed</a> a partnership with NGO Family Search (specialized in mapping family trees across the world) to preserve, process, and digitize records of immigrant families in Brazil.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>This is the biggest digitization process ever carried out by the National Archives—and the biggest by Family Search in Latin America. Over 3 million entry records between 1823 and 1980 will be analyzed—as well as 122,000 naturalization processes. Moreover, the government included 1,200 civil record books, encompassing births, marriages, and deaths of these foreigners in Brazil. A total of 6 million documents will be cataloged.</p> <p><strong>Religion.</strong> For those unfamiliar with Family Search, the organization is an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is known for a fixation on departed souls, as it allows for posthumous conversions. Its valuable work preserving records across the globe also acts as a form of &#8220;religious soft power.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>Not the first.</strong> The Mormon Church had already signed numerous deals with local administrations to catalog records. In 2016, for example, they got to restore and digitize almost 200,000 registrars&#8217; books, including birth, marriage, and death certificates. Since civil records only became mandatory in Brazil after 1920, Family Search also goes across Brazil to digitize records from Catholic dioceses.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a matter of fact, Brazil is the country with the second-highest number of these offices, after the U.S.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Disrupting corporate mobility? This startup believes it can</h2> <p>Brazilian Mob.go begins operations in January with a bold goal: to reduce companies&#8217; costs with transportation vouchers by up to 35 percent—all while encouraging employees to choose more sustainable ways to commute. The company’s founder, Márcio Mazzalo, spoke to <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> about how Mob.go plans to fulfill its promise.</p> <p><strong>How it works.</strong> The firm&#8217;s app tracks commuters and analyses the most efficient route to get them to work—saving companies up to 15 percent in unnecessary spending or fraud. If employees take eco-friendly transportation modes, such as riding a bike or carpooling, they earn credits exchangeable for rewards, granting the company another 20 percent in savings (depending on the number of employees and their habits).</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>According to a <a href="https://cmicro.fgv.br/sites/cmicro.fgv.br/files/file/Custo%20do%20Trabalho%20no%20Brasil%20-%20Relat%C3%B3rio%20Final(1).pdf">study</a> from think tank Fundação Getulio Vargas, transportation vouchers account for 12 percent of employers&#8217; spending on payroll.</p> <p><strong>Goal.</strong> Mob.go aims at managing BRL 500 million monthly in transportation vouchers—or the equivalent of 1.5 million employees, on average—and is negotiating with the four largest players in Brazil&#8217;s transportation vouchers sector. It also hopes to partner up with companies such as Uber and Yellow to boost the options available in the rewards program.</p> <p><strong>Investment.</strong> So far, BRL 2 million have been invested in developing the project. Mr. Mazzalo expects another BRL 2 million to be applied to advertising and support.&nbsp;</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Brazil’s new promising tech market: GovTech&nbsp;</h2> <p>While 2019 was a promising year for Brazil startup scene, with several new unicorns such as Gympass and QuintoAndar, one tech frontier remains to be fully explored: &#8220;GovTech,&#8221; or tech solutions related to governance. According to startup accelerator BrazilLAB, there are roughly 1,500 startups in Brazil currently able to provide tech services for all levels of government, but roadblocks such as outdated public bidding models and the lack of knowledge and culture of innovation among public leaders keeps stalling the process.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong>&nbsp; Renato Rebelo, BrazilLAB’s Projects Director, believes GovTech may help the Executive branch save money and increase efficiency by optimizing processes and fighting fraud, using tools such as data analysis, while the Judiciary may become more streamlined, while Congress can tighten its checks and balances on the Executive&#8217;s actions.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Advances. </strong>In 2019, the federal government began providing services through its online hub <a href="http://gov.br">gov.br</a>, as we reported in <a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2019/09/03/brazilian-government-investing-digital/">our September 3 story</a>. Since 2017, the number of totally digital services available for Brazilians jumped 446 percent to 1,758. However, a further 971 haven&#8217;t been taken online at all, while 605 are only partially digital.</p> <p><strong>Business opportunity.</strong> According to Mr. Rebelo, global investments by governments in GovTech are expected to increase from the current level of USD 400 billion to USD 1 trillion in five years, and most of that is set to be directed toward startups. “The budget is still managed in a very old-fashioned system. The government hires a big company to build a proprietary system; instead of doing that, it will invest in a company that already has the software and startups are set to benefit,” he told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>.</p> <p><strong>GovTech ecosystem in Brazil.</strong> Many companies are now becoming interested in providing services for the government. The fourth edition of BrazilLAB’s acceleration program involved over 300 applicants, 11 percent more than the previous year. “Of these, 25 percent were already providing services for the government. Last year, only 10 percent were,” he said, adding that fostering startups interest in providing services for the government is key for the segment.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <script src="https://www.buzzsprout.com/299876/2006263-84-can-blockchain-fix-brazil-s-bureaucracy.js?player=small" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Take note</h2> <p><strong>Satellites. </strong>On Friday, December 20, Brazil and China will launch two new satellites on Chinese soil—CBERS-04A and FloripaSat-1—in the latest development of a 31-year old cooperation program between both countries. Images provided by CBERS-04A will be used in deforestation monitoring systems Prodes and DETER, while FloripaSat-1 will allow amateur radios to communicate with satellites from remote areas all around the world, helping in eventual disasters.</p> <p><strong>IoT.</strong> The Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) and chipmaker Qualcomm created a BRL 160 million investment fund for Internet of Things (IoT) startups. The bank and the company will provide half of the money and aim to attract other investors for the project; fund managers interested in managing the fund may apply until February.</p> <p><strong>AI.</strong> The Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MCTIC) will be collecting suggestions from the public for an Artificial Intelligence strategy. The strategy will cover aspects such as legislation, R&amp;D, public security, use by the private and public sector and impacts on the workforce. The decision comes as Brazil adopts OECD’s artificial intelligence guidelines and in the wake of Brazil&#8217;s new Data Protection Law coming into force in 2020.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>IT Law.</strong> Congress approved changes to Brazil&#8217;s <a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2019/04/03/economy-ministry-it-subsidies/">IT Law</a>, making it compliant to international standards for tax incentives—thus avoiding sanctions at the World Trade Organization. Now companies shall pay tax on manufactured goods (IPI) but will be able to exchange investments in research and innovation for other tax credits, as long as they prove that at least 60 percent of their components were made in Brazil.

 
Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

Natália Scalzaretto

Natália Scalzaretto has worked for companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Most recently, she worked as an Editor for Trading News, the information division from the TradersClub investor community.

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