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From issue: Sports: Business, Integration and Social Change (Summer 2011)

AQ Feature

Business Innovator: Oscar Salazar, Mexico

For individuals, connectivity may be a choice; but for corporations, governments and large institutions accountable to the masses, it’s a necessity.

By aggregating information from social media, Oscar Salazar is making governments and businesses more transparent. (Photo: Lars Klove)
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Oscar Salazar, 33, founded CitiVox to get the right information to the right people. Based in Mexico City, but serving clients in Latin America and Africa, CitiVox was launched in 2010 by Salazar and his business partner, Jorge Soto, as a spinoff of their previous mobile-services enterprise, eflyer. The platform aggregates content from various communication channels—SMS, Twitter, interactive voice recognition, call centers, email, and social media—and funnels it into a “citizen relationship management” system for businesses and governments. This, says Salazar, enables decisionmakers to “deal better with the information flow and assign the appropriate person to fix it,” enhancing accountability and efficiency.

After redirecting messages, the system informs the person filing the initial request who the person assigned to the case is and the current response status. The benefit to CitiVox’s clients? Using mobile and crowd-sourcing technology, the company or government can generate a near real-time map of where problems are occurring or where the majority of requests are based, providing a snapshot of a community and its concerns.

During the 2011 presidential elections in Benin, for example, CitiVox provided detailed incident reporting, heat maps and other visualizations via SMS to Katrin Verclas. Verclas directs MobileActive.org, a network dedicated to harnessing mobile phone technology, and cited the company’s “sophisticated mapping, great data visualizations and better functionality.”

Clients also like CitiVox because it is very consumer-oriented. The company can provide customers with tailored reports of data and is constantly being modified to respond to customer needs. Henry Makembe, who manages a blog called Local Politechs about the use of web technologies in campaigns, also used CitiVox while monitoring the Benin elections and said that “on multiple occasions the [CitiVox] team added features in 48 hours or less.”

Salazar believes CitiVox will have significant social impact in two areas: creating transparency and enhancing efficiency. CitiVox helps governments reduce spending on advertising while offering them a means of receiving and visibly responding to input from the public. Increased transparency generates goodwill between the two pillars of society, according to Salazar.

By year’s end, Salazar hopes to expand the use of the CitiVox platform to two more public-sector institutions. Although the goal may sound modest, “we’re not focusing on volume,” he says. “We’re focusing on quality. Governments and decisionmakers should communicate better with their citizens, and we are providing an enhancement to existing communication channels.”

 

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