Personal Crowdsourcing

March 31, 2010

The Betavine Social Exchange project was launched over a year ago …see the project approval post from 28th March 2009.  The project has met with great enthusiasm when I have presented it in public and also when I speak to people face to face.  I have made a few good contacts via phone which then get followed up with face to face meetings.

The Social Exchange website was launched in October 2009 and saw a flurry of activity around the launch events.  I have also seen activity around follow on events and calls.  The online activity has mainly been stimulated by these face to face, personal relationships.

Is crowdsourcing personal?

I know there are many examples of online crowdsourcing sites that perhaps do not have off-line activities …but one thing that I have leant on Betavine is the need to create relationships.  We have run a number of off-line events e.g. Betavine Beers, Betavine parties and participated in lots of event e.g. Over the Air, WWW Annual Conference … developers days.   It is these off-line meetings that create the relationships that last and bring focus and dedication to the crowdsourcing cause.

The recent Cape Town Dev Day in March was a great success in terms of bringing focus on the Social Exchange challenges but now the task is to maintain that momentum.

Cape Town Dev Day - meeting developers

A combination of off-line activities coupled with an online presence seems to be the best approach.  The other key thing I learnt in Cape Town is the importance of linking up with community “leaders” on the ground – thanks to Marlon Parker and Rlabs for their support.


Mobile Social Entrepreneurs

January 26, 2010

Where are you?

I am keen to find examples of social entrepreneurs that use mobile technology – they could be called “mobile social entrepreneurs” .. but where are they?

I am not talking about social entrepreneurs who use a mobile phone to make things happen or use a mobile broadband dongle to run a business.  I am talking about social entrepreneurs who create businesses that are socially beneficial and based on mobile technology.

Mobile Social Entreprenuers and BSX

The example that I often hear quoted is the fisherman who accesses fish prices in different local ports via a mobile phone service, in order to set his course back from a fishing trip and maximise his income.  I guess the person who set up and is running this “fish price service” is a mobile social entrepreneur.  This story and others are featured on the EPROM website page – Why Africa?

There are many example where mobile technology is being used for social change – see but it is harder to find examples of where mobile technology is the basis for social entrepreneurship.  Any examples, please let me know.

Crossing the Digital Divide

December 14, 2009

I recently read a great blog post by Tomi Ahonen on the “The Digital Divide in Numbers”  – great post, getting the numbers sorted really does bring the whole issue to life.

Tomi clearly points out the disparity between the technology adoption in industrialised countries and that in developing countries.  However, there is a silver lining .. the mobile phone.

The figures presented are staggering and really put into context why mobile technology is supporting so much social change in developing countries.  It is the only technology widely available and in peoples hands.

One of the issues that the digital divide raises for the Betavine Team is how to access and promote the work we are doing with the Betavine Social Exchange.  The BSX is a website that is attempting to reach and support local communities in the developing world with their ICT related challenges by bringing them together with mobile developers and local entrepreneurs.  This presents a challenge in terms of the penetration of PCs and internet access.  However, we are targetting local NGOs as community partners on the understanding that they do have PCs and internet access.

We are currently considering the feedback we have got in terms of low bandwidth support and mobile support.  With limited resources we have to focus on those things that will really help to get the concept working.

One key aspect to the BSX is being able to support local entrepreneurs in creating mobile related businesses … the statistics clearly point out that there is a massive opportunity for mobile based services in developing countries.

Meet Online, Deliver Offline

November 12, 2009

A colleague pointed me to this BBC article today on Global ‘caring’ portal to launch and this one First Ever Global Portal for Social Change Set For Launch …. sorry guys but I do think there were other websites in this space before you … including Betavine Social Exchange … well maybe these other sites focussed a little more and are not on quite the same scale.

I think this is a great initiative, people can give their time to projects running on other continents without leaving the comfort of their own homes.   It is a   “a place where people can meet, congregate and change the world online”.

I will be very interested to see how this works – may learn a few lessons for the Social Exchange.  With the Social Exchange we talk about it being an online meeting place or a “matchmaking” website .. however, when it comes to delivering real services on the ground you need to go offline.

We noticed that Kiva used local representatives to help with the delivery of the micro-loans to the right people and we have introduced the concept of “Support Partner” in Betavine Social Exchange.  Support Partners are organisations with some local presence that can help to deploy a mobile solution in the local market.

Can the world be changed online?

Impact and Reconstruction

October 23, 2009

I had the privilege of spending a day at the Impact Direct Ministries in Athone, Cape Town on Monday of this week.

I spoke with the Director of IDM, Roger Peterson about the work they are doing with local people in need and in particular the success they have had helping to get people off drugs.  One of the keys to getting people off drugs has been to give them something new to focus on i.e. RLabs.  RLabs was set up by Marlon Parker, who I first met in February 2009 at the launch of Living Labs in Southern Africa, LLiSA.

Marlon has pioneered the use of mobile and web technology for social change in Athlone, Cape Town, South Africa.  The “Reconstructed Labs” or “RLabs” are truely a great example of a “living lab”.  The technology is applied to real life issues related to drugs, AIDS and general traininng of the local community in social media and mobile technology.  See details of these projects on the RLabs website here.  Marlon gave me an overview of the project:

I also spoke with a few of the team who have been helped off drugs and are now key members of the RLabs team.

Mobile technology can be used for social change and this particular project is inspiring!  I am hoping to work with RLabs Team going forward so that the Betavine Social Exchange project can benefit from all they have learnt in this space.

As I tell the story of the Betavine Social Exchange I get asked questions for clarification.  This really helps me to think through the story and make it clearer.  Here are some of the frequently asked questions which will end up in an FAQ on the website.

How do we keep challenges and solutions visible once the site has 100’s of users?

I got caught out by this question in Joburg!  We provide a good filter function on the challenge and solution pages so that you can filter by words used in challenge, region, partner or user tags.  This should help locate relevant challenges.

The fact that challenges are shown in reverse chronological order was mentioned and I was asked if regular updates to the challenge would keep it on the front page?  Yes, I think that could work but we need to consider more sophisticated solutions and maybe regular “mailshots” for unsolved challenges.

Do I have to link a solution to a challenge that is already on the site?

No. Solutions may be uploaded that are not linked to specific challenges.  This will allow a range of solutions to be uploaded and linked to challenges at a later date.  I hope we can have a large range of pre-existing solutions to select from.

What if there are several challenges that are very similar?

This may well happen and some challenges may look different but the underlying issues may be very similar.  At present we could link several challenges to the same solution.  In future we may add in a “similar to” button that gives a list of existing challenges and then similar challenges may be linked.

What mechanisms exist to publicise my challenge?

The Betavine Team are providing the BSX platform and general promotion.  A particular challenge could be promoted by a “tweet this” button which sends it out on the Betavine twitter feed to be re-tweeted by others.  We could also add in other mechanisms to make it easier to publicise challenges.

How do I start an off-line discussion around a particular challenge / solution?

At the moment you would need to give out an email address in a discussion forum.  In future we may have a direct messaging capability between registered Betavine members.

Will a challenge owner get notified when someone links it to a solution?

No, but we are planning to add this feature.

Who owns the IPR of particular solutions?

The creator / developer owns the IPR as is the case today on Betavine.  Once a challenge / solution pair has been created and it moves into the commercial discussion phase (off-line) then this is Business as Usual (BAU) for the local mobile operator or local businesses. Any commercial discussions on licence fees etc. will take place off-line.

Will all the software on BSX be open source?

No.  We will encourage software developers to select an open source licence e.g. GPL2, but it is up to the developer to decide.

I am sure there will be lots more questions posted soon.

After a great effort by the Betavine Team we reached the launch of the Betavine Social Exchange at 19:44 (RSA time) on the 14th October 2009.  This was a soft launch a day before the formal launch in order to get some content uploaded.  Thanks to Marlon and Nicky for helping out.  It is a “beta” so we are expecting the odd bug to be reported … and quickly fixed.

The launch event was held at the end of day 1 of the Sangonet Annual Conference in Johannesburg.

Turbine Hall, Johannesburg - location of #Sango09

Turbine Hall, Johannesburg - location of #Sango09

The launch of BSX was supported by Vodacom and their VEMCI team.  I presented a few slides on VEMCI and a few on BSX and then showed the website live … which worked!  I got some very good questions .. one of which I could not answer: “if there are thousands of challenges on the site how do I keep mine in focus and ensure that it is not forgotten?”  Well, the team will have to work on that one.

Launch Presentation #sango09

Launch Presentation #sango09

More at day 2 of #sango09 tomorrow and then off to Cape Town to meet some more NGOs.

Please check out the new site and give us your feedback and suggestions.