The Best of 2020

With the start of 2021 drawing near, we at Citibeats would like to take a moment to reflect back on this past year. It’s nearly impossible not to have the COVID-19 pandemic at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the mention of 2020. But despite the uncertainty, fear, and physical isolation this global phenomenon has brought upon us all, we also have cause to celebrate 2020.

In the spirit of innovation, positivity, and our belief in society’s ability to thrive even in the most troubling of times, we’d like to share our list of the best of 2020.  Some of the greatest achievements – both by Citibeats and in the world of AI – have taken place in the last 12 months, and we’d like to acknowledge them here.

At Citibeats, because we’re dealing in the world of AI and groundbreaking technology, we’re surrounded by a lot of facts, numbers and data. And while these are all extremely important and essential components of our mission, we believe that it’s extremely important to harness data for development and inclusion —as a critical cross-sectoral urban issue for the next decade and beyond.

We work daily with the vision of envisioning the future of cities, governance and empowered citizens in an ideal future –beyond the facts and figures.

What “utopia” does our collective imagination conjure?

We’re in alignment with some of the most progressive and, in our opinion, most brilliant thinkers and innovators of our time.

1. Accomplishing actionable results in social projects

The reason that Citibeats exists is to help society and make the world a better place. As such, we work with clients who use our platform to that end. We took on several commendable projects in 2020, of which we’d like to highlight a few:

CivicLytics public observatory with the IDB Group

CivicLytics was developed as a tool to show the perceptions and concerns expressed online by Latin American and Caribbean citizens regarding COVID-19. Data were collected from 26 countries with an average of 5 million opinions collected monthly from Twitter, online comments via forums, chats and blogs. Comments were divided into 13 categories such as crisis measures, food security, household and business economy, the new normal, education and more. 

From this project, we found that at the onset of generated a significant volume of concerns about public health in the region, up to 30% of the total conversation in March.

As the months passed, themes began diversifying and showed that the pandemic started affecting the lives of citizens in mixed ways. For example, in the Caribbean countries, the Black Lives Matter movement spurred rampant criticism of police inequality. While in South American countries, growing unrest in the mental health category rose to the surface with commentary about anxiety and depression. Regions and individual countries showed varying issues that needed to be brought to light for local decision-makers to prepare for and handle.

Accessibility map of Spain with Fundación ONCE

For this social inclusion project, we collaborated with Fundacion ONCE, Spain’s leading NGO for representing people with disabilities – a diverse group with different needs – that should be taken into account when creating accessible cities. Collecting and structuring online information was the opportunity to – for the first time – provide quantitative and qualitative evidence for identifying improvements to accessibility barriers.

To do this, Citibeats developed a real-time ‘Accessibility Map’ of Spain that collected +500,000 opinions per month for a 12-month period. This map identified and synthesized relevant complaints made by people with disabilities, and others around them, who became ”sensors” of accessibility barriers.

With this approach, Fundacion ONCE has been able to capture temporally-relevant needs, such as the request to make national elections more understandable for people with cognitive disabilities, and geographically-specific needs, such as areas where e-scooters parked on sidewalks are limiting access for people with reduced mobility. These human stories, as well as quantified evidence of issues, support advocacy with companies, local and regional governments.

Social media usage by digital finance consumer with IPA

Citibeats worked with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to tap into the potential of social media used by digital finance consumers to understand consumer protection issues and improve financial inclusion. Timely information on consumer protection issues can help regulatory agencies react faster and design more effective and tailored solutions. 

The project collected and analyzed 1 million monthly opinions published on Twitter, Facebook and Google Play Store reviews across 150 financial providers in Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. Nine consumer protection topics were detected – such as fraud, customer service, operational failures and data protection. This information was analysed and broken down by topic, type of financial provider and country to give insights on the most pressing consumer protection issues reported by customers and how Covid-19 pandemic has affected them the most.

Digitalization of companies in industrial sectors with CaixaBank Research

Citibeats took on a project in Spain to help CaixaBank build a digitalization index of the agrifood sector by understanding non-structured text as it appears in social posts. 

Citibeats captured over 2 million public tweets across 11 economic sectors to identify different areas of digitization – such as big data, AI, IoT, etc. By measuring and comparing the volume of comments related to digitization by sector and type of digitization area, new trends based on the popularity of certain topics was identified. While “talking about something” is not the same as successfully implementing the various digital technologies in a company’s recurring operators, it does indicate or hint of new trends that may be taking root in the different sectors. 

2. Plans to tackle the current infodemic with UNDP and UNESCO

There is no question that the health crisis has resulted in a massive infodemic – an excessive amount of information – some of which is true and verified and some that is not. This misinformation poses a real threat to national responses. Digital media and social networks exacerbate the problem by communicating false information that many people have come to rely on for decision-making. 

In an effort to take decisive action on disinformation and promote effective, sustainable socio-economic recovery, UNDP and UNESCO have joined forces with Citibeats to tackle the COVID-19 infodemic, starting in the Dominican Republic. The joint effort will include an in-depth data-based analysis of the infodemic landscape that can then be used to create an action plan for the dissemination of more reliable information. We believe in the urgent need for this social action and are very excited to see how we can help improve the situation in 2021.

3. Making strides in reducing the gender gap in online date

Online platforms – which provides data that many organizations use to make decisions – are often not representative of the gender distribution in the general population. For example, in our analysis experience, we often find that the Twitter conversation is around 70% male and 30% female. Removing gender bias from the analysis of people’s opinions thus became part of our mission. 

By calibrating results, we found some important differences in the social analysis of priority topics being discussed in Latin America during COVID. For example, we found that the concerns that were shared about the healthcare system, household economy, and civic initiatives were underrepresented – that’s because women were the ones discussing these topics but the volume of male discussion outweighs the female, thereby skewing the data.

By being aware of this gender-based discrepancy in data and calibrating for this effect, we are making strides in reducing the gender gap and giving equal weight to the topics that matter to everyone.

4. Detecting events faster than media

Another outstanding achievement of 2020 was the evidence provided through two case studies that Citibeats’ technology detects significant events faster than the media. With these cases, we established that real-time data and social alerts – which are indispensable during such volatile times – are only achievable through AI and machine learning.

In one case, the NY Times published a story in late April about the rising concern about famine and hunger in Venezuela and Colombia. Citibeats’ AI-based platform – through machine learning and natural language processing – had already launched a warning about this very issue 11 days prior to the story’s publication. 

In the second case, the Spanish newspaper, La Vanguardia, reported in mid-May that the primary concern of Spanish citizens in regards to COVID was the missing payment by ERTO, Spain’s subsidy program – the same issue that Citibeats had detected 11 days before.

5. Citibeats is named an Innovation Champion at AI for Good

AI for Good’s Innovation Factory showcases startups that use artificial intelligence to tackle global challenges. The program received over 200 submissions from 60 countries, ultimately having 36 applicants pitching during seven sessions throughout the year.

It was a very proud moment when Citibeats was awarded as one of four start-ups that received the highest scores for innovative, scalable AI solutions – and made Citibeats an acclaimed Innovative Champion!

Final Thoughts

The year 2020 has been both challenging and rewarding. Despite the incertitude, we’ve managed to make great strides in the area of ethical AI and in our vision as a company. Of course, none of this would have been possible without our amazing partners around the world who share our passion to serve the social good and improve the lives of every global citizen. And for that – and our partners – we are very grateful. We leave 2020 behind with great excitement and optimism about what lies ahead in 2021!