The use of smart technology - Bachaqueros and Fingerprinting Technology 

 

Social theories are widely being tested in this regulated market and the government attempts to make sure people know your finger prints are being used to ensure no one can buy more than once their ratio of the pie!

The fingerprinting is very advanced technology for supermarkets and pharmacies, but are obligated in many of these places to buy certain foods and for all medicines.  In a time of complete and utter chaos, Venezuelans live their day-to-day with shortages in electricity, basic food, toiletries, water and security. Long lines are made in desperaion to buy groceries, often times starting at 3 am and ending by 4 pm that same day. This is the scene in which we glimpse into Venezuelan looking for examples of smart technology use for urbanistic development.  

 

So in this context, speaking about smart technology is a challenge. In fact, the only advanced technology being implemented are fingerprint technology to ensure rationing.

A state-centralized government has tried to avoid a new phenomena (or has little use of a closed-cycle system of smart city urbanism). Meanwhile, a group of informal market vendors called Bachaqueros have developed. Bachaquero is a word made-up during this food crisis, starting in 2014, for anyone who uses the reselling of state-reguated products for a 200% (example) surcharge. These informal market vendors buy and resell state-regulated staple products such as: coffee, sugar, white or brown rice, frijoles/black beans, oil (frying or otherwise), milk, chicken, and more. Why would people buy and re-sell?  The reason is that most companies in the last 10 years were taken over by the Chavista Revolution and then left without rebuilding them or making the products they first offered. 

 

Those companies were part of a chain of production, and once they were forcefully taken away,  the country was left without raw materials,  and other companies were unable to produce what they needed without the raw materials once locally grown. So as a conseuquence, in the last 10 years more and more products are imported. The increase in importas led to the state-government to regulate products in order to keep prices from being too high (as impoted products cost USA dollaras).

 

Fast-forwrad to 2015/16: bachaqueros have created a new full-time job out of selling state-regulated products to socio-economically disadvantaged groups. These vendors did the quick math to notice that reselling state-reulated products (rice, beans, milk) gave them a higher return on their invetsment (ROI) than their normal minimum wage salary of 16,000 Bs/month (which is currently equivalent to 16 dollars/month or 2000/month). SO now we have two markets...the governmet reguates at the state dollar price, while the rest of the market sells at a black market price.  Re-selling could grant them 100,000 BsF return on investment, and involve less hassle with some street malice. In this economy, many minimum wage workers quit their public sector job and waited in line for government regulated products which are 25 cents-50 cents per product versus non-regulated price that are equivalent to 5/dollars per product.

 

If the majority of society makes around 16-30 dollars (or 2,000 dollars in the parallel market) a month (including professional class such as architects, auditors, bankers etc), then many cannot afford buying these products at unregulated price. Those who are now buying the products regulated to resell are doing so with 200% profit over product, taking advantage of women and professionals who just can ask their boss for time off from their jobs to get in line for 2-8 hours of a work day. Many are now iporting heir own food from Curacao, Jamaica, Miami. 

 

The fingerprint technology is meant to keep the rationed food at 2 items per person (for example) to void the current trend, which is to buy 10-15 products at once, either to avid inflation prices in the future or to resell. In any case part technology is trying to overcome the challenge the government has in controlling the parallel markets hat are abusing of the imbalances created with the lack of products needed for the population. 

The machines are much like the ones used in US immigration to get a visa, where you place your right and left index finger in a slot and the machine should find your identity ensuring each individual buys the maximum allowed in the national rationing of medicines and food. In Venezuela, smart technology is therefore being implemented by national state agencies to regulate and control what people are buying, where they buy it and how. 

 

Innovation is marked by extreme regulation, and the only ones with the resources and money needed to implement technology uses it to further control the various parallel markets that have sprung up as a consequence to over-regularization of certain segments of the economy. 

(Note: Ugh so confusing to have 3 markets running parallel, and to not understand how much you make, which market you're buying and selling and who you're contributing to in this economy.)