Brazilian officials would rather you not know about favelas, the city’s historically impoverished shantytowns, which often appear as mysterious and unmarked splotches on tourist maps. But the prospects of the Brazilian slums seem to be rising. Residents say drug and gang-related violence is down and government raids are less frequent. There are even reports that some favelas have become popular non-zip codes (some don’t have them) to live in following this summer’s World Cup. (This particular shift, however, is also connected to efforts by the Brazilian government to force residents out of their homes before the games).
For tech giants Microsoft and Google, however, here’s the really exciting statistic: nearly 1.3 million of the favelas’ 1.5 million residents now have mobile phones, and almost half of them are online. Both companies have recently partnered with local groups to capitalize on that online engagement and map the communities’ sometimes ramshackle infrastructure, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning.