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The unveiling of the hidden poverty

A CD-ROM and a Map Server from the Center for Metropolitan Studies gives a real outline of São Paulo's social needs

You look out the window of your car and there it is – poverty, more than visible. However the statistics are not as perceptible as reality, and when one speaks of the Metropolitan region of São Paulo (MRSP) it is not difficult for the numbers to show optimism, to talk of splendor and to hide a good part of the misery. “In general, the averages hide poverty and we knew that it would be necessary to provide the State and people with elements which would really permit the identification in the social needs and the lack of access to the services provided in metropolitan São Paulo. Consequently we made available to the public sector not only a finer understanding of the social situation, but tools for intervention within that reality”, says Argelina Cheibub Figueiredo, the director of the Center for Metropolitan Studies (CEM in the Portuguese acronym), which is one of the ten Research, Innovation and Diffusion Centers (Cepids) supported by FAPESP.

This month the CEM is launching products that, as well as supporting the close to twenty research projects being developed, will help to minimize this inaccuracy and will simplify access by the public in general to information about Metropolitan São Paulo. The first of them is a CD-ROM with census data about Metro São Paulo. It contains digital cartography as well as the data from the demographic census questionnaires of 1991 and 2000 and of the Population Count of 1996, all carried out by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). A large part of the information processing of this data was carried out by the State Data Systems Analysis Foundation (Seade), which is a CEM partner on this project.

The information refers to twenty one municipalities of the metropolitan region, making up more than 95% of its population. Initially two hundred copies of the CD-ROM will be produced, which will be freely distributed to the public sector and to researchers by way of an e-mail request. This CD also brings with it the free program named Terraview, developed by the National Space Research Institute (Inpe), which aims to make digital cartography more and more accessible to Brazilian users.

“With this CD-ROM, the CEM is giving access to an integrated group of information, previously scattered throughout various public agencies and companies that charged for this service. The data on the CD-ROM is already being used in introductory courses on the use of the Geographic Information System (GIS) by people in the public sector linked to the formation of social policies”, says Argelina.

The areas with a high concentration of poverty or insufficient social welfare via public policies appear with clarity, since the size of the censorial sectors is restricted to three hundred families. With this breaking down of the information, since there are more than twenty thousand sectors for the MRSP in 2000, it became possible to identify the social groups that, in each one of the municipalities or in the confluence of municipalities, should be the preferred target of social policies.

Thus, it is a fundamental tool so that authorities can make decisions and benefit social groups who, without this information tool, had been excluded from government policies”, the professor explains. She also emphasizes that the information will allow researchers to refine the existing understanding about the innumerable social processes going on in the metropolis. The use of this data in association to a GIS about public service supply, as it has been carried out by the CEM research, allows for the drafting out of a diagnosis on hidden demands, or that it to say, of groups who, due to their the vulnerable conditions under which they live, have no means of channeling their demands.

Education and development
Along this line of action, the CEM has already developed studies in the areas of urban planning, for the city administrations of Mauá; in education for the cities of Guarulhos, Embu and São Paulo; and is currently carrying out research in the areas of housing, social assistance and economic development for the city hall of São Paulo. Another product that is available is the Map Server, which can be accessed via the Internet at, a site at which researchers and public administrators can also find part of the research produced by the CEM with the help of Inpe, which allows for the spatial overview of socio-economic indicators of the census data of the IBGE, for the years 1991, 1996 and 2000.

“Contrary to other similar applications in existence at institutes such as the IBGE, whose map providers are only make available municipal data, the CEM map provider shows things by district (there are 162 in the MRSP)”, explains Argelina. The system offers zoom resource, selective research, the captions formation and the printing of the maps. Within the data that can be found using this instrument are: population, gender, schooling, income, household conditions and migration changes. Later on, those interested will also have access to data referring to elections, cultural infra-structure, churches and public policies. “The application was developed in such a manner as to simplify its use to the extreme, even allowing that a ninth grade pupil would be able to manipulate it without a problem”, assures CEM’s director.

By way of these products, the CEM, with its head office at the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (Cebrap), has complied with one of its functions as a Cepid. “One of the main objectives laid out by FAPESP on creating the Cepid was to have a straight link between research activities and the transfer and diffusion of knowledge. With these products, we’re guaranteeing easy access and at no cost on geo-referenced information to researchers, people in the public sector and to the public at large, for the formulation and evaluation of their public policies”, professor Argelina explains.