In collaboration with Citibeats, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) carried out a study using the CivicLytics Citizen Observatory, an ethical artificial intelligence tool. By analyzing hundreds of thousands of comments from citizens on Twitter, forums, blogs, and digital media, the study highlighted concerns and perceptions to trace opinion trends related to economic recovery.
Considering opportunities and obstacles for recovery is critical during a public health emergency. Understanding the context of public perception can shape initiatives and increase the ability of governments, agencies, development organizations, companies, and citizens to utilize more inclusive decision-making processes.
The CivicLytics Citizen Observatory promoted by the IDB based on Citibeats ethical AI technology has processed, analyzed, and structured more than half a million Panamanian opinions. This social big data provided evidence of obstacles and opportunities for the economic recovery of the country and the integration of women in the future labor market.
Opportunities and needs for economic reactivation grew by 57.6% in Q3 2020.
The data indicates that the 2020 economic crisis caused by the health emergency had a heterogeneous impact on the Panamanian economy according to sector and gender. Except for the telecommunications sector (ICT), employees, entrepreneurs, and consumers generally expressed their concern by requesting changes in fiscal policy, moratoriums, aid, and economic reopening.
Citizens feel their situations worsen when faced with what they perceive as a slow financial bureaucracy and non-transparent granting of recovery funds and loans. As potential recipients of aid, they express doubts, indicating a lack of clarity. They also criticize the absence (or ignorance) of state programs to stimulate the economy.
Numerous business citizens have pointed out the need to create support programs focused on SMEs, which typically represent around 90% of all businesses.
Transformation of Panamanian Business
Citizens show signs of resilience, and fear has fueled the potential for improvement. During the pandemic, many Panamanian companies and professionals moved towards online work. Providing professional training to the citizen sector can help support this shift. The production stoppage of 2020 also highlighted the value of cultivating digital skills and implementing a more digital economic model moving forward.
Online commerce training courses multiplied as a survival mechanism for the commercial sector, which represents a significant portion of the Panamanian GDP. Agricultural technology training programs also garnered increased attention. The Ayudinga Foundation's digitally-based training programs were recognized for their positive impact on scientific development in the country.
According to 44% of perceptions, creative industries were considered highly dependent on public policies. Citizens realized that the health situation seriously harmed the creative industry.
Not surprisingly, citizens express concerns about the absence of job opportunities. According to data from CivicLytics, Panama registered more than 7,000 comments and requests about fiscal policy, moratoriums, and aid for workers who lost their incomes due to the necessary measures to flatten the contagion curve. Citizens requested investment in the area to avoid a long-term cultural crisis.
Professional groups united under the hashtag #NoMirenParaOtroLado to show their situation and request specific aid for their sectors.
Economy & GenderCare made up 24% of the professional concerns of single working mothers.
The periods of confinement and the economic downturn have impacted the possibilities of family reconciliation and the preservation of employment for Panamanian women. Since the region’s GDP would increase by 34% if women were incorporated, reintegrating women in the labor market should be a key point on the road to economic recovery. Panamanian women point out possible public policy solutions to support them in the recovery:
- Establish specific aid for low-income, single-parent families.
- Adapt extended hours with staggered entry to avoid crowds. Mothers ask that this entry be agreed upon based on telework schedules.
Teleworking decreased workplace bullying.
Before the pandemic, almost half of recorded comments related to gender inequality in Panama included testimonies about verbal or physical attacks, sexual harassment, compliments, or touching. The confinement significantly reduced these testimonies: 61% between January and October. However, it remains unclear whether it is because such abuses were not reported immediately after they occurred.
However, other expressions of gender inequality remained constant throughout the pandemic, such as the glass ceiling and the responsibility for the care of dependents, such as babies, people with disabilities, and the elderly. Two needs worsened during 2020: transport (27%) and food security (21%).
Transportation has been a consistent problem in Panama. From January to October 2020, we recorded comments on transportation. The lack of civil infrastructure, landslides, and the poor coverage of public transport has caused much discomfort for Panamanian citizens.
Unlike other places in the region where emergency food shortages were reported, Panamanians focused their attention on the relationship between citizens and food insecurity. Since the perceived lack of food is thought to cause crime, reimplementing the arms-for-food exchange program may gain traction.
Social Big Data for Economic Recovery
Citizen listening clarified the needs and challenges of Panamanian citizens and companies during the pandemic. It also highlighted potential solutions. Having this actionable information in real-time adds value to guide quick, effective action that promotes economic recovery.