What is Zap do Bem, and how did you become involved?
ZdB is a coalition of entrepreneurs, companies and individuals who put together an initiative to provide financial assistance to the most vulnerable in the context of the Covid-19 outbreak. After a conference call my husband Daniel Goldberg had with some favela community leaders, we thought about putting together this project, with the help of some friends and companies.
Zap do Bem operates similarly to a direct cash transfer system, but is funded privately. What differentiates Zap do Bem's program from current pandemic-related government aid programs?
The federal government created an emergency relief payment system administered through a SOE bank- Caixa Econômica Federal (“CEF”) which requires people to download an app, register physically by a local CEF branch and then open up a checking account. ZdB bypasses all that and - with a natural language interface (via simple AI bots) and seamlessly -allow beneficiaries to open up a digital account on the cloud immediately. No need to have a previous bank account or relationship with any bank within the system and no need to have memory or storage capacity in their mobiles to download apps.
Zap do Bem strives to work in partnership with government programs. What might this partnership look like, and are there any underway?
The idea is to license the tool to governments and philanthropies who want to use ZdB to transfer cash digitally in a more efficient way. There is one on-going discussion with a coalition of philanthropies in the State of São Paulo. Other discussions are preliminary and cannot be disclosed.
How does Zap do Bem identify families and individuals in need?
ZdB uses census data and zip codes to make sure beneficiaries are most likely to fall within the first percentile of national income distribution. Our initial project was in Vergel do Lago, a community in Maceió/Alagoas, where the average family income per capita is 69% of the minimum wage. The individuals contemplated by our program had an average family income of 15% of the minimum wage (0.33 percentile of national income distribution). This means that 99.6% of the Brazilian population have an average income higher than the people we assisted in Vergel do Lago.
How have you measured the impact of Zap do Bem during the pandemic? Can you share some of your results?
Thus far we have anecdotal evidence that communities had tremendous impact not only because of direct cash transfers to around 7,500 families, but also because of the multiplier effect: local merchants selling essential goods could ultimately “keep the door open” by registering and participating in the payment scheme. Many small vendors appeared to remain viable in the local communities thanks to ZdB. It is really encouraging when we receive messages from the local communities telling us how they were positively impacted. We encourage and appreciate donations to continue to be able to help the most vulnerable (instructions are available at our website - https://zapdobem.com.br/). To ensure transparency, we are audited by BDO.
What is the long-term vision for Zap do Bem? Will it continue to operate for as long as COVID-19 crisis persists, or beyond?
This was conceived to be an emergency program and, thus, transient in nature. The plan is to phase out following the end of the Covid-19 state of emergency.
Interview conducted by Kathleen Barrow, Brazil Office Fellow