PhD candidate Guilherme Lichand was named one of Brazil’s leading under-35 innovators and social innovator for 2014

By Jenny Li Fowler

Recently named one of Brazil’s top ten innovators under the age of 35, PhD candidate Guilherme Lichand is on the cutting edge of a new kind of digital revolution.

Lichand’s startup company, MGov-Brasil, seeks to raise the standards of public management and social impact initiatives worldwide by leveraging cell phone technology.

“Taking advantage of worldwide usage of mobile phones, we use analog technology—text messaging (SMS) and voice calls—to implement a two-way communication channel with respondents, gathering data and sending out information for public policy evaluation, monitoring and civic engagement,” said Lichand. “Our projects encompass education, health, financial solutions for the poor, and urban mobility and participatory budgeting–a project that we are working on with the city of Boston.”

Lichand’s current research evaluates how rainfall insurance affects a farmer’s cognitive capacity.

“A farmer might invest in fertilizer instead of irrigation if covered by rainfall insurance, undertaking a higher-expected-return investment now that a minimum consumption is guaranteed even if the yield turns out to be low,” said Lichand. “However, insurance might have other effects. By making rainfall less likely to be ‘top of mind’ among farmers living in drought-prone areas, rainfall insurance might change the allocation of mental bandwidth from water-related tasks to other tasks.”

Lichand says he draws inspiration from his colleagues and professors at Harvard Kennedy School.

 “Being at HKS inspires me to undertake research that has the potential to make a significant change in the world, by informing higher-quality policy design," he said. "Kennedy School professors and my fellow students, many of them whom are involved in exciting projects, are an incredible source of motivation and support.”