October 19, 2017 Print

In 2016, Mexico was host to an estimated 31.1 million crimes. According to a startling statistic from Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography, 9 out of 10 victims of a crime do not report it. Seeking to combat Mexico’s culture of impunity, the Instituto Mexicano de la Competitividad (IMCO) has designed Norma, a digital tool that will guide citizens through the process of reporting a crime via text message.

Norma was chosen as one of the 15 regional finalists in the Google.org 2017 Challenge, a Google-led initiative that invited NGOs in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru to pitch social innovation projects.

IMCO argues that an overcomplicated justice system coupled with a pervasive distrust of authorities means that millions of crimes are going unreported.

“Most people think that reporting a crime is a waste of time, and they do not trust the authorities,” said IMCO’s director of institutional development, Guadalupe Mendoza.

The word “norma” translates to rule or guideline. It is also a popular woman’s name. Wordplay aside, the IMCO team wanted the robot to be accessible to the average Mexico citizen, down to its very name. “Citizens need tools that are comprehensive and easy to digest in order to report a crime,” said Mendoza.

Since Norma is a digital robot and not an app, even those without smartphones will be able to rely on their “digital lawyer,” the term that IMCO has coined for Norma. Roughly 60.6 million Mexicans own cell phones, so Norma has the potential to reach almost half of Mexico’s population.

“The tool will be entirely independent of government authority and will provide free information anonymously and in real time, to help bypass obstacles in interacting with authorities,” said Mendoza. Norma is the brainchild of the entire team at IMCO, which, following its landmark work on criminal justice and impunity, decided it was essential to create a tool that would allow citizens to exercise their rights without having to rely on institutions they distrust.

The team is also hoping that Norma will help gather valuable data that will help shape future public policy.

Only two other projects were chosen in Mexico; each of the national finalists was granted an initial $350,000. Unfortunately, IMCO did not advance to the next round, but the team is still aiming to set this project in motion.