In the realm of innovation, we often speak of the role of technology in creating solutions to problems. The gravity of these problems, of course, can vary. In Mexico, two young engineers have set out to devise a way to address a real issue in their homeland: crime.
Twitter a Tool for Citizens
Mario Romero and José Antonio Bolio have created Retio, a free app that allows users to report and map public safety issues via Twitter. Citizens may report more serious crimes through the application – shootings, murders and assaults – as well as more minor issues such as broken traffic lights, road blocks and abandoned vehicles and even instances of corruption and police abuse. After a user reports an issue, Retio automatically categorizes the information and retweets it.
Users can search Retio by incident type and location, and they may post and see photos that accompany reports when available. Anyone with a Twitter account can use Retio, but for the time being, the app is only available for iPhone and iPad.
No Anonymity, Viral Growth
Romero and Bolio began work on the project in January 2011 and launched in July of the same year. Over the following six months, the two launched the Retio iPhone app and extended coverage across all of Mexico’s states. Retio has taken off exponentially throughout Mexico, almost in a viral manner. Currently, its Mexico City feed has 62,000 tweets and over 6,000 followers.
Interestingly, Retio does not guarantee the anonymity of its users, and its founders make no effort to hide their identities. Though Romero told one publication that neither he nor Bolio have received any direct threats, some officials and police authorities have not been all too pleased with their efforts. Nevertheless, they will forge on, as Romero said, “We believe that even though the distribution of the types of problems is different among different cities, even among cities in Mexico, the advantages offered by the collaboration and coordination between citizens are universal.”
Though Mexico and Latin America have made important political, economic and social advances over the past decade, safety and security remain problematic in numerous locales. Solutions such as Retio have the potential to be imperative in improving such situations.