Career Conversations with Jorge Soto
In the latest installment of the Career Conversations series part of the European Studies and Latin American & Iberian Studies Undergraduate Fellows networks, Jorge Soto, a Maurice R. Greenburg World Fellow, part of Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, spoke about his professional journey, and the importance of technology in creating a positive impact on society. Soto is the chief technology officer and co-founder of Miroculus, a biotechnology company that seeks to democratize access to complex molecular tests for treatment and prevention of diseases. He founded Miroculus with the vision and mission of reducing the entry barrier in cost, development, complexity, and increasing access to genetic sequencing, synthetic biology, and genetic editing to help advance science and improve lives.
The Career Conversations series is a collaborative effort between CLAIS, European Studies Council, and its associated undergraduate fellows’ networks that has partnered with the Jackson Institute’s Global Health Studies program and Yale-NUS College. (View Video)
Soto first began to explore civic innovation during Mexico’s 2009 midterm election cycle. Although he majored in engineering at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Soto wanted to find a solution to reports of election fraud and voter intimidation occurring throughout the country.
According to Soto:
“When talking to some friends, we realized that we could use technology to try to crowdsource election monitoring and increase [citizen] trust that way.”
Soto and his friends went on to found Cuidemos el Voto! — an election monitoring system that translates to “Let’s Protect the Vote.” Cuidemos el Voto’s main goal was to provide a platform that allows citizens to report incidents of electoral crimes through their website and through social media outlets, before, during and after the election. It quickly became the official reporting platform of NGOs and Governmental agencies in the Mexican election of July 5th, 2009. However, when government agencies were presented with this data, he learned that these institutions had no formal mechanisms for processing this data.
“So we started asking the question… how can we help the situation and prepare for the civic innovation that was happening, and that was ready to happen?”
In response, Jorge founded and became chief technology officer of CitiVox, a platform that allows government officials and development agencies receive and analyze citizen reports and convert them into actionable information. The company enables Mexico’s governmental institutions to “close the feedback loop [and] for them to analyze and really measure, a real time pulse, [of] what is happening in the city.” CitiVox, uses mobile and crowdfunding technology to build and enhance the relationship between citizens, and government – increasing civic engagement and government accountability and transparency.
He later became the Deputy Director General of Civic Innovation at the Coordination of National Digital Strategy of Mexico, where he led strategies and projects that promote citizen participation and innovation in the country through the use of technology. In particular, he was part of the team that developed the strategy, standards, and tools for Mexico’s open data policy so that public information could be shared between agencies and to citizens in readable and accessible formats.
However, despite the solutions born from this evolution in the relationship between social systems and technology, he acknowledges that civic innovation also brings with it new questions.
Soto closed the event with this important message:
“All these years I’ve considered myself a technology revolutionary working outside and inside institutions observing learning and leading how technology has the democratization effect. I don’t call myself a technology revolutionary I call myself more cautionary optimist. I saw every day in the front seat how innovation can come from crisis from an electoral crisis from a security crisis and natural disaster crisis and health crisis, etc. However, today I have also realized that crisis can come from innovation, and that is the challenge we’re leaving today and that we collectively need to answer.”
Written by Gabriela Garcia, Yale College Class of 2023