Tuesday 27 September 2022

President orders to stop the work of data analysts unit, amid controversy

President Carlos Alvarado will meet this Monday morning with the Ombudswoman, Catalina Crespo, who will be investigating why he has a group of three data analysts.

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Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado ordered on Sunday a stop all the work of his data analysis unit, “so that the Ombudsman’s Office will conduct its investigation.”

President Carlos Alvarado will meet this Monday morning with the Ombudswoman, Catalina Crespo, who will be investigating why he has a group of three data analysts. Photo: Rafael Pacheco

The president announced his decision through his Twitter account, where he said he prefers that the Defensora de los Habitantes (Ombudswoman), Catalina Crespo, can remove all doubts or concerns that arose from a decree published in La Gaceta, where a team of analysts of the Unidad Presidencial de Análisis de Datos (UPAD) would have access to confidential information of citizens.

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Although the chief insisted that the unit was created to use the information and statistics for decision-making, the controversy has focused on article 7 of the decree, published on Monday, February 17, where access was given to confidential information of public institutions.

Alvarado said on Sunday he will be meeting with Crespo and her team this Monday morning, at Casa Presidencial and that the Vice Minister of the Presidency, Silvia Lara, will be in charge of attending to all the observations made about the data analysts unit.

On the other hand, without giving details, he said that on Monday he will also give a public message on the subject.

Earlier on Sunday, La Nacion reported that in a telephone conversation, the Minister of Communication, Nancy Marín, said that the decree that proposes access to confidential data of Costa Ricans had a “weakness that generated little clarity and uncertainty.”

The government spokeswoman said she does not know who or how the decree was created where Carlos Alvarado orders the creation of the UPAD, in particular, article 7 of the decree, where it literally says that the Unit will have “access to confidential information available to public institutions when required”.

The data analysis unit is made of three team members, two of whom we know publicly:

  • Diego Fernández Montero, who heads the UPAD, a statistician, with a master’s degree in Political Science, and came to the Presidency at the hands of former presidential candidate Rodolfo Piza who allied himself with Alvarado for the second round of the presidential elections. In his resume, Fernández says he serves as a presidential advisor in data science for public policies, from June 2018 to date.
  • Alejandro Madrigal Rivas, advisor and data analyst, who holds a Bachelor in Economics from the University of Costa Rica (UCR), with studies in Physics, a former president of the Student Federation of the University of Costa Rica in the 2013-2014 period. Madrigal started working with Alvarado as a data analyst as soon as he graduated as an economist. Since January of this year, he teaches Economics at the Véritas University, after being a junior researcher in a project of the Research Institute in Economic Sciences (IICE) of the UCR.
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