Platform “Apoyos del Gobierno” (Government Benefits)
The information on the different procedures of access to benefits is scattered among many different agencies websites, whereas the platform "Apoyos del Gobierno" aims to simplify through Artificial Intelligence that any interested party can consult the details of Federal Government programs in a single place.
Based on neurolinguistics analysis, the platform not only provides predicted results considering relevant contextual words, but also enhances searches considering the user’s profile.
Within the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Mexico has the second highest rate of income inequality, only behind Chile. Fiscal policy is one of the main tools available for the government to affect the distribution of income and wealth. However, the re-distributive impact of fiscal policy in Mexico is low. While in the OECD countries fiscal policy reduces inequality by 27% on average, in the case of Mexico, fiscal policy only decreases inequality by 2.8%. This makes Mexico the OECD country where fiscal policy has the least impact on inequality.
In Mexico, although most of the budgetary programs for addressing inequality are adequately focusing in the multidimensional aspects of poverty, there is a difficulty, especially among the most vulnerable population, to know and access the available government benefits. In other words, Mexican fiscal policy is achieving its distributive goal at lower pace than expected and, as a consequence, the access to governmental resources is not being optimized to boost individual welfare and, therefore the country's development.
The main problem that the platform “Apoyos del Gobierno” seeks to solve is the difficulty that population faces to find a government benefit that better suits their individual needs, but also know its requirements and processes of application. Before this platform, information on the different procedures of access to benefits was scatter among different agencies websites and it was difficult to find the details of each kind of support. In many cases, potential beneficiaries have to rely on intermediaries to apply or even interpret by themselves technical Rules of Operation (ROP for its Spanish acronym), risking the opportunity of getting the benefit. This costs money and time that could had been better allocated in other activities. Hence, “Apoyos del Gobierno” is dealing with a problem of information asymmetry which creates imbalance of power, income, wealth and opportunities to all the same.
In order to bring the population, particularly the most vulnerable, closer to the benefits provided by the Federal Government, the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP, for its Spanish acronym) systematized the information of the Operation Rules of 66 Federal Budget Programs and created a user-friendly, profile-oriented platform. Each of these Budget Programs has different benefits, in sum: 1,534 monetary, 438 in-kind and 12 funding supports. Among the pool of programs, the most frequent are scholarships and training courses, followed by infrastructure and productivity projects, and lastly by restoration and conservation of ecosystems programs.
This web application has an intelligent search engine that through neurolinguistics analysis gives more precise results. It also consolidates program’s target population and makes it possible to do advanced searches based on individual and particular needs. The latter with the help of BAFI, the Intelligent Federal Benefit Finder that will accompany the user in all the process. This enables the general public, businesses, social institutions and local governments to know the range of programs they could apply to. Likewise, this platform aims to increase the impact of redistributive policy in order to reduce social inequality, enhance life quality and give economic opportunities.
In addition, the platform includes a section of Open Data, where information of Budgetary Programs with Operation Rules can be found in CSV file or online through a public API. This allows policy makers and public policy analysts to have a better understanding on the allocation of public resources. In the short term, the platform will integrate personalized consults through a Chat Bot available in social media, since this kind of websites are the most used by the general public. Also, each Budget Program available on the platform will have a linkage to the section of Budget Program Performance where indicators, results, contracts and disaggregated budget can be found.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Before this platform, the Federal Budget Programs with ROP were scattered in the different websites of the Ministries of the Federal Government. For general public, with minimum or null knowledge of government organization, this situation represents an obstacle to reach the government benefits. Even for those who were capable to find the right benefit, the ROP are typically technical and extensive documents.
The “Apoyos del Gobierno” platform is the result of a public policy effort to, first, design and implement an instrument for capturing the main characteristics of the ROP of Federal programs and, second, to develop a user-friendly website to spread this information among the target population. The search engine of the platform is capable of linguistic analysis of the search, and, therefore, to obtain relevant key words which represents and advantage in comparison with the traditional "word by word" searches since it avoids taking into account language not related to the query.
What is the current status of your innovation?
From the release of the “Apoyos del Gobierno” platform, it has been necessary to develop a social media strategy for the diffusion, since it has a wide potential public, with different sociodemographic characteristics and different interests in terms of the budget programs contained. Hence, the exposure on social media and other mass media has been one of the main tasks and the Ministry keeps working on the diffusion strategy mentioned before.
The implementation stage has provided to policy-makers an understanding on how to report the information from the ROP for its integration into the platform. This represents both a constant assessment and improvement of the ROP, which is an innovation on the process of presenting official information in a better organized way and translated into common language for general public.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The “Apoyos del Gobierno” platform was conceived and designed by the Performance Evaluation Unit of the SHCP and the Inter-American Development Bank. However, its development involved the whole Federal Public Administration, civil society organization and citizens through focus groups and experts interviews. These focus groups were meant to capture as much representation as possible for both nationally and potential users of the platform.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The potential users of the platform are general public, business, organizations and local governments looking for any kind of Federal Government benefit. Furthermore, it is designed to improve the life of those who have to rely on an intermediary to obtain those benefits. Among the main target public of the “Apoyos de Gobierno” platform are those who are part minority groups that usually experience intersectional discrimination, in addition to difficulties on the access the basic services.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The innovation of “Apoyos Federles” was launched on the 28 of November 2018, and the observed results are still preliminary. However, this platform aims to increase the population applying for a Government Benefit without relying on intermediaries. In this sense, indicators of success are the increase of number of applicants by program and a decrease on the share of applicants that relied on intermediaries.
Currently there is an active campaign on social media for the broadcast and promotion of this innovation. There is also a monthly newsletter for the diffusion of the platform and others topics related to public spending.
Challenges and Failures
The main challenge of the “Apoyos del Gobierno” platform is to reach potential users in places with broad digital gap or low access to the Information and Communication Technologies. These people live in underdeveloped and poor communities and in several cases, they rely heavily on the government supports. However, this limitation is being addressed as a parallel national challenge for warranting digital access to all Mexicans.
Other limitation is that not all Federal programs are integrated on this platform. The reason of the latter is that, because of their budget characteristics, not every program reports ROP, which limits the potential of the platform. In addition, the platform only contains information of the Federal Government programs, so it is necessary that in the near future the platform integrates most Federal Programs and State Government programs.
Conditions for Success
For starters, the “Apoyos del Gobierno” platform depends on an annually update based on the integration of the ROP of each Federal Program. The continuity of the platform will depend on the assurance of human and financial resources to keep this update. Even though most of the hard work has been already done and, there are still many improvement aspects that need the leadership and vision of Public Servants.
The “Apoyos del Gobierno” platform has not been replicated to address similar problems in Mexico. However, the platform has the right potential to be adopted by Federal Institutions for the promotion of the access and dissemination of information about their own Programs and benefits.
The integration of new and innovative technologies is necessary to deepen the accuracy and personalization of the platform, not only this one but all those potentially developed in the near future.
In weak institutional frameworks, political agents tend to interpret the laws and mandates. The success of any policy depends on how it shapes the behaviour of the population. The main obstacle for the “Apoyos del Gobierno” platform has been the homogenization of the information provided by the ROP. In order to overcome this problem, it was necessary to implement training workshops for public servants on how to report the information of their ROP in the proposed instrument.
Before the workshops, it was also necessary to implement a pilot program in order to collect information on the accuracy of the instrument designed for the preliminary stage of the platform. This instrument consists on a file of instructions as well as an explanation of each column of the report. The instrument allows the creation of a database with unique identifiers for supports and population types. This integration and homogenization of information is a necessary condition for the platform to work properly.
Simultaneously, it was necessary a explore how to conjugate this technology with those already available on the Platform of Fiscal Transparency. For example, The Neurolinguistic Analysis process is made with the CoreNLP tool from Stanford University. It is an open source tool designed in Java language, which allows its incorporation into the Technologies currently in use by SHCP.
Finally, one the biggest limitation of this project is that the platform is not available for all the population. According to the National Institute of Statistic and Geography, by 2017 around 45.4 percent of households in Mexico has a computer and 63.9 percent of the population of six years or more has access to the internet. In other words, there is still a big digital gap to overcome. So, for this platform to success on its goal, it is necessary to increase the digital literacy and, eventually, the closure of the gap.
This innovation is useful for policy makers to design policies that better respond the needs of the people. The standardization of the ROP provide information on what, how, to whom and when the Federal Government is locating its programmable expenditure. With this information it is possible to know the social and economic characteristics of the target population of this Government Benefits and, thus, to create a space for improvements on the redistributive impact of fiscal policy.