AmigoCloud improves field data to fight informality

AmigoCloud field data collection solution shows how local authorities can get more accurate community data

Collecting property taxes can be a challenge in cities like Lima, where economic informality is typical.
Collecting property taxes can be a challenge in cities like Lima, where economic informality is typical.

Informal economic activity – business and activities that are not monitored or taxed by the government – is a common part of many countries’ economic landscape. Although this economic activity is a driver in many developing economies, it brings with it problems of lost tax revenue, poor working conditions, lack of regulation, and hampering efforts at better government planning and resource application.

Combating informality takes many forms, but US company AmigoCloud is helping Lima in Peru to overcome one of the main issues with collecting property tax – lack of data – by developing cost-effective means of conducting field surveys.

Ragi Burham, CEO and co-founder of the company, explained: “Economic informality in the Peruvian economy is at around 65.7%. As a result, tax collection in Perú is less than half of what you could expect from a developed economy (14.1% in Peru vs. the OECD average, 34.2%) which limits the ability of the government to invest in health, education, and infrastructure.

Better informed local authorities are able to plan better and understand their communities, says Burham.

One of the main issues of informality in Peru is property taxes not being paid properly, Burham said. Households may avoid taxes, or underpay by claiming to only a one-storey property when they have more. The issue for local authorities is that verifying property tax returns is a costly process, requiring inspectors to go into the field and compare what is on the ground against official records. Even preparatory surveys of locales can be time-consuming and manpower-intensive.

To address some of these issues, AmigoCloud has been testing its AmigoCollect field data collection platform with local government in Lima, the capital of Peru, to enable faster, and more cost effective field data.

Unlike similar surveying solutions, AmigoCollect only requires inspectors to be equipped with an Android or iOS smartphone, and requires no training in GIS. The solution is cloud-based, allowing inspectors to enter data as they travel around a district, uploading data in real time. The mapping component of the solution is based on open industry standards, and the company provides easy-to-use APIs for easy integration between existing systems and the AmigoCollect platform.

By utilising smartphones as collection devices, the field teams are able to access visual reference data like satellite maps while on site, collect geo-referenced information, and add multimedia files as required.

In the test project, the local government was able to identify and target commercial areas, where there was best likelihood of increasing tax collection, Burham said. The solution reduces the number of man-hours by about four-fifths, which not only saves on labour cost, but also have a knock-on reduction in reduced travel expenses, which were cut by about 30%.

Burham said that better field data can bring other benefits to government agencies: “Having this type of information updated can lead to better urban planning and understanding of the changes experienced within communities.”

AmigoCloud is aiming to take the solution to other countries in Latin America and Africa, where informality is an issue, and it has already been deployed in other roles such as road mapping and maintenance, asset management, and is also being tested with transportation authorities in Santiago, Chile, for trip planning.

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