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Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!

Peru’s Ojo Vial app crowdsources infractions for naughty drivers

Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!

Contxto – It has been a good start of the week for eye-based tech enthusiasts. 

In Las Vegas, the show was stolen at CES 2020—a consumer electronics fair—by Mojo Lens. The little gadget is a contact lens which functions as an intelligent screen that allows you to superimpose info and visuals onto what you see with your own eyes. 

This is what sci-fi geeks probably imagined back when they talked about Augmented Reality. Eat your heart out Google Glass.

Closer to home we’ve been seeing the development of Ojo Vial, a Peruvian platform designed to crowdsource surveillance through photos and videos of incorrectly parked vehicles. 

The app was created in mid-2019 but has taken off as of October when two well-to-do Lima boroughs officially adopted it. The San Borja and San Marcos municipal governments in conjunction have thus far received about 2,000 notifications about naughty drivers. 

A little way to go 

Ojo Vial isn’t the only traffic regulation app available in the region. It isn’t even the most successful one.

For instance, take the Buenos Aires-based BA Denuncia Vial. It is older, more widespread, more comprehensive, and complies far more infractions than its Peruvian kin. The five-year-old Argentinian platform reported on average over 450 daily infractions—going beyond parking and into the realms of speeding and the like—over the course of 2019.

What stands out about Ojo Vial though is its unusual origins. Though the app was in part publically funded through Peru’s startup development agency, Innóvate Perú, the platform is in fact privately owned and run. 

This opens up a series of interesting philosophical questions and brings them into the realms of actionable ethical conundrums. 

The hivemind is watching you

Privacy has become a particularly prevalent issue as increasingly intrusive technologies have become commonplace. It sometimes feels we are one election gone wrong and one last software update away from Big Brother.

So, when an application deliberately places law enforcement, even if partially, into the hands of the masses some interesting question marks arise. And when that application is run, not via an elected government, but rather through an outsourced private entity, those question marks suddenly get some exclamation points added onto them.  

Topics such as accountability, security, and social responsibility regarding companies versus governments must be an ongoing conversation as technology advances and changes us.

Would you rather have an Ojo Vial, a BA Denuncia Vial, or neither as part of your life? Are some things best left to the government or shared out collectively? Whatever your answer is, Ojo Vial will be an interesting case study in what seems to be a long debate ahead of us. 

-AG

Alejandro González Ormerod
Historian, writer, and editor from Mexico City. He was a book publisher, academic, and cheesemonger before joining Contxto. Still deciding on which Latin American country to visit next; food and fun are the main criteria.

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