Microsoft and UNICEF Technology in Brazil to Help Favelas

October 20, 2016

As Brazil continues to grow and develop at an exponential rate, their famed favelas will soon be on the map thanks to Microsoft and Bing. Microsoft will soon set up an online application similar to the trendy app Foursquare which will use mapping infrastructure. Foursquare is a popular application used all over the world by businesses and people alike.2 The application allows you to “check in” to businesses and acts as a location-based form of social media. If you show proof of your check in, you can receive free products or coupons toward available products from the business. While these types of apps are prevalent throughout the developed world, Microsoft is now aiming to bring the favelas online. Currently, many of the restaurants and shops located in the favelas are not online -- thus, much of the public is not aware of them. Microsoft wants to put them on the map and promote their locations and in turn hopes to boost Brazil’s local economy. This type of technology based infrastructure will also help these communities participate in the digital world, something most people from these areas have not yet experienced. Not only will Microsoft put businesses on the map, but it will also give locals a physical address. Currently, most residential homes and businesses within the favelas do not currently have an address.1

Though Microsoft has yet to begin the task of  mapping the massive favelas, UNICEF has already done some legwork of mapping local infrastructure. In 2012, 111 young adults from different favela communities helped UNICEF by mapping problem areas based on the potential hazards within each area. Several technology organizations—Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, and the Innovative Support to Emergencies Diseases and Disasters—helped to “develop a mapping platform that enables real-time data collection through web and mobile applications.” The volunteers were trained to go into the various favelas and use a phone application to photograph problem areas. In addition to taking photographs on the ground, volunteers also attached cameras to kites to gather aerial photos in order to "identify the presence or absence of drainage systems, the availability of sanitation facilities, impediments to evacuation, and other issues."3 In one favela, The Morro dos Prazeres, the community mobilized to “clean accumulated garbage in high-risk areas” as a result of mapping efforts.3 By removing the garbage, it helped prevent landslides and health hazards that often plague favela streets. With community efforts such as these, UNICEF’s new program is seemingly helping to not only map the favelas, but also to remove hazards while cleaning up.

After seeing the success of UNICEF’s efforts, Microsoft hopes the mapping infrastructure will positively affect local companies and the community’s economy. By giving businesses and people an address and recognition on a map, Microsoft expects to bring the favelas into the booming world of technology. Bing states, “With the ability to take advantage of localized information online, these local economies will be able to access the benefits of a platform for innovation and economic mobility.”

For a closer look at UNICEF-Geographic Information System mapping technology used in Rio, follow this link:



Works Cited

 1) Hong, Kaylene. "Microsoft Is Mapping Shanty Towns in Brazil, in a First Step to Getting Them Online." TNW Network All Stories RSS. The Next Web, 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

2) "About Foursquare." About. Foursquare, n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

3) Caparelli, Maria E., Ludmilla Palazzo, and Rhazi Kone. "Brazil." In Brazil, Adolescents Use UNICEF's New Digital Mapping Technology to Reduce Disaster Risks in the Favelas. UNICEF, 19 Mar. 2012. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.


About Author(s)

Alysete's picture
Alyssa Silver
Alyssa Silver is currently a senior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Information Science with a Certificate in Latin American Studies. Ms. Silver is an intern with the Center for Latin American Studies and Panoramas as a Jr. Web Designer. Alyssa has traveled in Latin America and lived in Argentina for over a year. She is fluent in Spanish and loves learning new languages. She will be graduating in December of 2014 with the prospects of traveling to more countries in Latin America and continuing to learn about their culture.