Tech Roundup: South American cities become more digital

. Nov 20, 2020
digital cities brazil Brasília is one of South America's pioneer cities. Photo: 061 Filmes/Shutterstock

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: South America’s digital cities; esports investment spikes, and how brands are avoiding the term ‘Black Friday’.

South American cities become more digital

Five South American cities joined the list of 36 pioneers that will test the policy roadmap for smart cities designed by the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance. The initiative, captained by the World Economic Forum, unites governments, private-sector partners, and residents around a shared set of principles for the responsible and ethical use of smart city technologies. 

Which cities are included? In South America, the pioneers include Brazilian capital Brasília, Bogotá and Medellín in Colombia, and Buenos Aires and Córdoba in Argentina. 

  • Brasília Secretary of Science and Technology Gilvan Máximo said the Alliance “will provide us with a global partnership to accelerate the adoption of technologies in a responsible manner and for the benefit of the citizen, debating complex issues and seeking joint solutions.”

Goals. Over 50 policy experts are drafting rules to help cities adopt best digital practices, mitigate potential risks, and foster greater openness and public trust in areas such as privacy protection, better broadband coverage, accountability for cybersecurity, increased openness of city data, and better accessibility to digital city services for people with disabilities and senior citizens. The roadmap should serve as a foundation for cities to develop their own policies based on their local reality. 

  • WEF representatives told The Brazilian Report that more information on the cities’ specific plans to adopt the roadmap will be released in the next months. 

Esports: the next frontier for Brazilian advertising

Major Brazilian companies are starting to invest in sponsorship deals and initiatives linked to esports in a move to attract a younger, more connected customer base.

  • This week, state-owned bank Banco do Brasil launched the #Tamo Junto Nesse Game (We’re together in this game) to collect info and content regarding the bank’s initiatives in the gamer world, as well as partnerships and promotions for their customers. 
  • Ame Digital, the cashback app created by retailer Lojas Americanas, recently signed a sponsorship contract with e-games team paiN Gaming, one of the biggest in Latin America. The app, which already has a gaming area, will now offer themed content and personalized cashback offers for users who purchase products on platforms such as Steam and Xbox Live. 

Target audience. Targeting gamers as a consumer audience is a business-savvy decision. As we reported in our June 5 Tech Roundup, almost three in four Brazilians play video games. 

  • The country is already the third-largest market for online games in the world, with more than 60 million players. 
  • São Paulo also hosts major events for the gamer demographic, such as the local edition of Comic Con — the franchise’s largest event in the world — and programming festival Campus Party. 

Why it matters. With the rise of e-commerce and the ongoing digital transformation in society, Brazilian companies are adapting to appeal to an increasingly online audience.

How Black Lives Matter changed Black Friday in Brazil 

Earlier this year, the world witnessed a series of anti-racism protests following the murder of George Floyd, a 47-year-old black American, at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers in May. The wave of protests never really took off in Brazil — but online outrage on structural racism is leading brands to change how they approach Black Friday, the year’s biggest ecommerce date.

  • Some brands are now ditching the “Black Friday” name in order to avoid backlash from social movements which believe the term is racist.

Controversy. The trend was pioneered by cosmetics giant O Boticário, which has a history of advocating inclusive cause. In September, CEO Artur Grynbaum shared a LinkedIn post saying the company will drop the “Black Friday” term in favor of “Beauty Week,” as to avoid making customers uncomfortable. He justified the move due to “the lack of scientific data to prove that [Black Friday] is not related to slavery.” 

  • “Naturally, there are risks of losses on the business end as we have little time to adapt our strategy […] but we decided that it was better to build together what we believe in,” Mr. Grynbaum wrote.
  • The origins of the term Black Friday are unclear, but the most accepted explanations have no racial undertones. The most common theory suggests it refers to the date when vendors made the most profit, going from the red to the black. However, the earliest known application of the term came in a 1951 newsletter for factory executives, when it was used to describe problems of worker absenteeism.

Reaction. Not all customers praised the move and O Boticário were accused of “opportunism.” 

Sensitivity to differences. Samanta Lopes, Inclusive Diversity coordinator at marketing agency Um.a, sees brands’ increased concern as a result of deep social changes, as more and more Brazilians identify themselves as black or multiracial. However, she warns that these symbolic gestures could backfire if not followed by an overhaul of company practices.

  • “Adopting a stance is about representativity, it only makes sense if the company actually includes diversity in its culture, policies, at all levels of its workforce, its products, services, and communication. If it’s just an empty attempt to pander to consumers, it won’t be sustainable nor will it deliver results,” she tells The Brazilian Report

Take note

  • Education. This week, São Paulo launched its first Center of Innovation for Basic Education (CEBIP), a hub to allow students to test their projects using technologies such as 3D printing and receive mentorship on robotics, programming, and “maker culture.” CEBIP will be able to host 1,200 people per day in its six rooms, computing labs, and studio. While it is located at a local school in the western area of the capital, it is open to all schools in the state.
  • Car sharing. Brazil’s biggest private bank Itaú Unibanco will expand its mobility efforts in 2021 by offering an electric vehicle car sharing service. Similar to Itaú’s bike sharing service, users can rent through an app and pay according to the time of usage. Trials will begin in February in São Paulo using models such as the BMW i3, JAC iEV40, and Jaguar I-Pace, but the bank is considering partnerships to expand its fleet.
  • Algo-trading. Fintech Trademachine — which developed a method to invest in financial markets using algorithms — has been certified by Anbima to work as a research firm based on its quantitative method. The company now hopes to reach 10,000 subscribers by the end of 2021. 
  • Marketplace. Grupo Pão de Açúcar (GPA), owner of supermarket chains Pão de Açúcar and Extra, announced it will sell logistic services to companies registered on its marketplace by 2021. The service was open for other sellers in November and has already gathered major partners such as specialized toy retailer Ri Happy. Thanks to the strategy, GPA doubled the numbers of items offered to 30,000 and expects to reach 400,000 in 2021. This ecommerce gamble comes as online sales reached records due to the pandemic; the food segment alone is expected to top BRL 1 billion in sales this year.
  • Facial recognition. State-owned digital solutions provider Dataprev is testing facial and voice recognition technologies with 500,000 pensioners to carry out remote “proof of life” tests within national social security institute INSS. As required per Brazilian law, pensioners must attend an INSS branch every year in order to prove they are alive, to avoid fraud. The new technology can help to avoid unnecessary travelling, protecting citizens who are the most vulnerable to Covid-19.[/restricted]
Natália Scalzaretto

Natália Scalzaretto has worked for companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Before joining The Brazilian Report, she worked as an editor for Trading News, the information division from the TradersClub investor community.

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