If it is true that perception reflects reality, it cannot be ignored. What has been the perception of Panamanian citizens towards economic recovery scenarios?

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has presented the conclusions of a study carried out thanks to the citizen observatory of ethical Artificial Intelligence CivicLytics in collaboration with Citibeats. By analyzing hundreds of thousands of comments from citizens on Twitter, forums, blogs, and digital media, the study seeks to understand people’s concerns and perceptions to trace opinion trends that impact reality and contribute to new inclusion policies.

Understanding opportunities and possible obstacles for recovery scenarios plays a key role in the current health emergency scenario. Every initiative is defined by the context where it applies. Understanding that context adds value through perceptions, and more if you multiply them by thousands or millions, this shapes reality. Taking into account other perspectives of the context increases the possibilities for governments, agencies, development organizations, companies, and the citizens themselves to rely on more inclusive decision-making processes.

The CivicLytics Citizen Observatory, promoted by the IDB and based on the ethical Artificial Intelligence technology of Citibeats, has processed, analyzed, and structured more than half a million opinions of Panamanian social big data. This data put in evidence the obstacles but also the opportunities for the economic recovery of the country and the integration of women in the labor market of the future.

Opportunities and needs for economic reactivation grow at a rate of 57.6% in Q3 2020

The data indicate that the 2020 economic crisis caused by the health emergency has had a heterogeneous impact on the Panamanian economy, according to sector and gender. Except for the telecommunications sector (ICT), the citizens that are part of the business fabric (employees, entrepreneurs, consumers) have expressed their concern by constantly requesting changes in fiscal policy, moratoriums, aid, and economic reopening.

 Citizens feel their reality worsens in the face of what they perceive as a slow financial bureaucracy and that recovery funds and loans are granted in a non-transparent and slow manner. Citizens, potential recipients of aid express doubts, indicating a lack of clarity regarding access to such aid, they also criticize the absence (or ignorance) of state programs to stimulate the economy.

Numerous business citizens have pointed out the need to create support programs focused on SMEs. The latter represented 9.7% of total revenues only in 2019.

The pandemic drives the digital transformation of Panamanian professionals and companies, with a monthly increase in the supply of 10.9% during 2020, generating a new knowledge resource from 2021 onwards

Citizens also show signs of resilience, and fear has become a potential for improvement in Panama, promoting the training and digital transformation of the citizen sector with professional training and linked to companies. The production stoppage of 2020 also brought benefits from the perspective of complementing digital skills and adapting to the economic model of the pandemic and post-pandemic.

During 2020, interest has been aroused in specific agricultural technology training programs that sow good resources to be used during 2021 in reactivation. During 2020, online commerce training courses multiplied as a tool for the survival of the commercial sector that represents 17.5% of the Panamanian GDP in 2020. The rise of interest in the Ayudinga Foundation’s educational, and scientific training program through digital platforms was recognized as an example for the promotion of scientific development in the country.

Precarious situation of creative industries, highly dependent on public policies (44% of perceptions)

Citizens realize that the health situation seriously harmed the obstacles of the creative industry that represents 6.3% of the country’s GDP according to the Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) comparatively higher than the activities of the primary sector.

Citizens, no surprisingly, express concerns about the absence of job opportunities. This is perceived as a lack of administrative clarity when requesting aid regarding the lack of agility on the part of public authorities to react to the crisis. For example, according to data from CivicLytics, Panama registered more than 7000 comments and requests about fiscal policy, moratoriums and aid for workers who, due to the necessary measures to flatten the contagion curve, lost their income. Citizens request investment in the area to avoid a long-term cultural crisis, resulting in citizens’ lack of local cultural references.

Professional groups, such as that of the theater sector, unite under the hashtag #NoMirenParaOtroLado to show their situation and request specific aid for the sector, such as being included in the solidarity bonus.

Economy and gender:

  1. Single working mothers, the most affected by the pandemic, with care being 24% of their professional concerns

The periods of confinement and the economic downturn have had a special impact on the possibilities of family reconciliation and the preservation of employment for Panamanian women. Knowing that the region’s GDP would increase by 34% if women were incorporated, and given the blow that the crisis caused in this possibility, reintegrating women in the labor market should be a key point on the road to economic recovery. Panamanian women citizens point out possible solutions from public policy to support them in the recovery:

    • Establish specific aid for low-income single-parent families.
    • Adapt extracurricular hours and services, with staggered entry, to avoid crowds. Mothers ask that this entry be agreed upon based on telework schedules.

     2. Teleworking did not end workplace bullying but it did decrease it

The data recorded before the pandemic revealed comments related to gender inequality in Panama that included in almost half of them, testimonies about verbal or physical attacks, sexual harassment, compliments, or touching. The confinement allowed these testimonies to be considerably reduced; 61% between January and October, however, it remains to be determined whether it is because such abuses are not reported right at the same time they occur.

During the months of lockdown, as expected, the testimonies related to workplace harassment were reduced by 61%.

However, other expressions of gender inequality remained constant throughout the pandemic, such as the glass ceiling or the responsibility for the care of dependent people, such as babies, people with disabilities, or the elderly.

Two needs that got worse during 2020, but with the hope of improvement towards the post-crisis recovery: transport (27%) and food security (21%).

Transportation has been a constant problem in Panama. From January to October 2020, we recorded comments on transportation in Panama. The lack of civil infrastructure, landslides, and the poor coverage of public transport have caused much discomfort to the Panamanian citizens who, facing the uncertainty of the health crisis, consider a need to improve mobility in the country.

The monitoring of food insecurity problems indicates that the citizens of Panama, unlike other places in the region where emergencies of lack of food were reported, focused their attention on the relationship between citizens and food insecurity. Thus, a systemic approach to a solution was disseminated forward, perceiving that the lack of food is the cause of crime. Given that association, it gained strength to re-implement the arms-for-food exchange program that already took place in the past.

Big Data Social to support the economic recovery of the country

Citizen listening has made it possible to understand the challenges that Panamanian citizens and groups of companies have faced during the months of the pandemic. Also, listen to the needs that have been expressed or the solutions suggested to get out of the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Having this actionable information in real-time adds value when it comes to taking action quickly and effectively, promoting actions for the economic recovery of the country.

COVID-19 and the Citizenry: the first 120 days.

Discover the main insights that we extracted using Artificial Intelligence that allow us to understand community trends and post-crisis scenarios.

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