M4Change News

Syndicate content
Updated: 28 min 5 sec ago

M-PESA meets microsavings with Equity Bank deal in Kenya

Tue, 2010-05-18 10:46

This morning in Nairobi, Safaricom and Equity Bank were joined by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki as they announced a new product called M-Kesho, an interest-bearing savings account. Kenya’s 9.4 million M-PESA users will have access to mobile microsavings, microinsurance, and other banking services with Equity Bank,  a CGAP project partner.

If M-PESA has given millions of Kenyans a safe, cheap alternative to carrying cash, then today’s new service, M-Kesho, will give millions of Kenyans a safe, cheap alternative to keeping cash under the mattress. CGAP is supporting Equity Bank to learn more about how to deliver savings accounts to poor, unbanked people. The Technology Program at CGAP is co-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CGAP, and the UK Department for International Development.

“This product will promote a savings culture in Kenya,” said Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph. Savings matter at the macro level because domestic sources of bank deposits help mobilize money for investing and economic development (and foster less dependence on foreign funding flows).

“Now, Kenyans will have self-service savings accounts on cell phones. When these accounts are linked though M-PESA, we will be the most-banked country in Africa and the developing world,” said James Mwangi, CEO of Equity Bank.

At the client level, savings can empower poor people to have better lives. That’s because when you’re poor, you probably have unexpected expenses and earn money in a lumpy, unpredictable way. Savings can smooth out the lumpiness. This is why today’s announcement is exciting not just in Kenya, but across the globe.

Speaking in Nairobi, CGAP acting CEO Alexia Latortue said, “Today, Kenya is sending a message to the world: poor people want savings accounts. Mobile banking is a powerful way to deliver savings services to the billion people worldwide who have a cell phone but not a bank account.”

-Jim Rosenberg

Getting cell phones into Cuban hands

Tue, 2010-05-18 06:13
On an island with little internet, more Cubans are turning to cell phones — using them not to talk but to text and page. GlobalPost reports.

... The Cuban government is not clamping down its network, but opening it up. Since Raul Castro lifted a ban on Cubans owning cell phones in 2008, the number of wireless accounts in the country has soared by 600,000 to more than 838,000 today, according to Cuban telecom officials.

Activation fees have been slashed from $150 two years ago to roughly $25. International calling rates are also being cut, and the number of wireless users in the country (pop. 11 million) is expected to grow to 2.4 million by 2015. The island’s GSM network already covers 70 percent of Cuba’s territory and further expansions are planned.

“We’re going to keep working to provide the benefits of telecommunications to a greater number of Cubans,” said Cuban telecom official Maximo Lafuente at a recent press conference in Havana. “There’s no doubt that cell phones are an important foundation to the country’s development.”

Read full report .


-- Cuba open up to allow more cell phones

-- In Cuba, cell phones go unanswered

-- Cuban phone company reports 7,400 new cell phone accounts

-- Cubans snapping up cell phones

-- Cuba lifts curbs on cell phones


YouTube hits 2 billion milestone

Mon, 2010-05-17 08:06
YouTube said it now gets over two billion hits a day, as the popular video site celebrates its fifth anniversary.(author unknown)

Silicon 'nose' turns cell phones into toxin detectors

Sun, 2010-05-16 07:15

According to CNet, San Diego's The University of California and a startup called Rhevision, are working a tiny silicon chip that can be embedded in cell phones that will detect and then map the location and extent of gas leaks and toxins in the air.

The sensor, described in the university's news release as a porous flake of silicon that works like a nose, changes color when it comes into contact with specific chemicals, which can be searched for by manipulating the shape of the pores so that they respond to specific chemical traits.

A megapixel camera smaller than a pencil eraser captures the image from the chip's array of nanopores, and the resulting images, seen through a supermacro lens developed by Rhevision, come into focus through changes in fluid instead of a typical lens' moving parts.

Just last month, PhysOrg.com reported on Cell-All, a technology in development by Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, that aims to equip cell phones with a sensor capable of detecting deadly chemicals.

And other variations have been in the works since 2003:

-- Cell-All could put chemical sensors everywhere (2009) - New technology that would add chemical sensing capabilities to cell phones .

-- Radiation detectors in your cell phone (2008) - Purdue University is developing sensors which fit inside a cell phone that can detect radiation, and thus perhaps stop the detonation of a nuclear bomb by terrorists is a bit outlandish to my way of thinking.

-- Saving the World With Cell Phones (2005) - As cell phones evolve to include souped-up games, streaming video and MP3 players, some University of California at Berkeley professors and graduate students want to slip a pollution detector into the mix.

-- Phones that detect terrorist attacks (2003) - A newly opened research center at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA is developing a cell phone that can also detect "dirty bombs" by containing detectors that then upload their information to a central database.

-- PCell phone could warn of gas leaks (2003) - A mobile phone able to warn against fire, leakage of methane or other types of toxic gas has been submitted to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office for patent.

-- :Cell Phones - For so much more than just talking (2003) ... And down the road, research is working on cell phones which can warn of gas leaks (thanks to sensors that verify changes in the atmosphere) and cell phones that will be able to warn about the presence of bacteria and viruses (thanks to bio-sensors) or detect dirty bombs (thanks to detectors that can upload information to a central database).


SMS Project in Uganda Shows Malaria Knowledge Exists, Action Lacking

Wed, 2010-05-12 19:35

By Joseph Were

12 May 2010

(Kampala, Uganda)--Text to Change, a Dutch non-governmental organization, chose World Malaria Day on 25 April to run a quiz via SMS in a rural fishing community in eastern Uganda to measure knowledge about the disease.

The results showed that most people know how to prevent malaria--notably, 98 percent of the respondents seemed to be aware that insecticide-treated mosquito nets are the best way to prevent malaria. 

         Rural Ugandan Mobile Air Time Kiosk

However, few people said they are following effective anti-malaria practices--for example, only 10 percent of respondents said they sleep under a treated net.

“I believe it is not about the lack of knowledge but about behaviors. Text to Change [TTC] believes that SMS is an additional and very effective medium to encourage people to change their behavior,” says Bas Hoefman, TTC's founder and managing director.

But what is likely to change behaviors? Surely, better and better-targeted information helps; however, other obstacles prevent people from implementing best practices. Hoefman acknowledged that in many cases, regardless of the information flow, a lack of money or conflicting priorities are the problem.

 “People cannot afford to buy more than one mosquito net. Another reason is that people don't have room to put up mosquito nets as they live in small houses. Furthermore, it is very common that mosquito nets are being misused, e.g. to turn them into fishing nets,” the TTC founder commented.Still, Hoefman and his colleagues see good reasons to pursue bolstered malaria education via mobile phones, which are reaching well into rural communities even if only a few people may actually have personal access to them. “People who don't have phones will benefit from the fact that people share phones in Africa."                                           
                                                                                                                                         Standard Mosquito Net

 It is estimated that every phone is shared by five people in Africa. Sharing phones means sharing information,” he noted.

See more about use of Mobile Phones in Uganda

Malaria-induced infant, child and maternal mortality rates in Uganda and many Sub-Saharan African countries remain high despite the many interventions put in place over the past several decades to curb the disease. Malaria is still cited as Uganda’s leading cause of illness and is endemic in 95 percent of the country. Malaria accounts for nearly half of inpatient pediatric deaths, according to the Uganda Ministry of Health  (see President's Malaria Initiative).

The TTC quiz appeared to corroborate information from the 2006 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, the latest large-scale survey on health issues, which indicated that only 10 percent of pregnant women and children under five had slept under a mosquito net the night prior to the survey. The proportion of children below five treated with an anti-malarial drug from onset of fever was 29 percent, while only 16 percent of  women receiving two doses of intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy.

Based on studies showing that insecticide-treated nets are one of the most effective ways to prevent malaria (for example, click here) the Uganda government plans to distribute them free to all of the country's 31 million citizens. Already, six million nets have been dispatched.

When used properly, these nets could bring down malaria transmission rates by 50 per cent, child deaths by 20 per cent and the mosquito population by as much as 90 per cent. And yet, only 10 percent of pregnant women and children under five in Uganda sleep under one. Uganda spends up to US$ 6 million annually to fight malaria.

The TTC quiz involved sending multiple-choice questions via SMS to a database of 10,000 cell phone users from the targeted communities. TTC used its flexible mobile phone platform across the four major telecommunications networks in Uganda. The messages were in English and Luganda, and reply was free of charge. The process starts with an SMS announcement to phone users to expect the quiz questions, explaining that it is free of charge and will test their knowledge. People respond to a toll- free number and TTC complies their responses. Participants also had the chance to win free mosquito nets and mobile phone airtime.

“We can see how many people send back the right or wrong answers. We compare that information with baseline information,” says Hoefman.

TTC sees a need to repackage malaria prevention messages to make them more appealing to the public, notably through the kinds of SMS-based methods they are using.  

Hoefman argued that the impact of past SMS campaigns is that “sending out messages in question form encourages people to enter into discussion with each other on health subjects such as malaria. The incentives are given out to motivate people to participate and reward them for doing that. This form of edutainment is essential and especially effective to reach out to youth already familiar with SMS and games.”  

Until now, Malaria prevention messages have been done through other media such as radio and television. However, SMS may be able to boost cost effectiveness, efficiency, scalability, convenience, breadth of reach and responsiveness in developing-world communities.

Joseph Were is associate editor of The Independent weekly in Uganda.  


See our complete Communication Profile for Uganda

Related Blog:
Mobile Applications for Development Poised for Growth in Uganda

Pictures Courtesy: Flickr and Rita Colaca and YoHandy

In Uganda, with less than one dollar, people can buy air time to their cell phones. Also, wooden houses - like in this picture-are used to charge the battery of mobile phones,since most of people do not have electricity at home.Picture: Rita Colaço, Flickr


More from India: Can branchless banking be distributed like Coca-Cola?

Wed, 2010-05-12 05:47

In the past few weeks, my colleagues have blogged about our study of agent networks in India. You can see our overall analysis of agents (called CSPs or Customer Service Points in India) here. The India research was one part of a three-country study (along with Brazil and Kenya) that highlights the critical role agents play as the key interface between a branchless banking service and its customers.

However, a mobile network operator (MNO) or bank rarely liaises directly with each individual agent. Instead, they rely on middlemen who manage anywhere from 10 to several hundred agents. Called different names in various countries (such as distributors or aggregators), in India they are called Super CSPs (SCSPs). EKO’s SCSPs are particularly interesting as they sell EKO’s service along with other products for major FMCG, MNO and pharmaceutical companies.

In India, a single distributor for a company like Coca-Cola (or Airtel or Nestle) works with several hundred retailers who sell Coca-Cola’s products. The distributor is responsible for selecting retailers, managing inventory, picking up/delivering cash and managing paperwork (e.g., for SIM registrations). Is it feasible for a distributor to add mobile banking to the other products they sell? Although the basic responsibilities are the same, m-banking is new to customers and retailers and so SCSPs must take on a more hands-on role. They must answer retailers’ questions, decide which retailers would make good agents, and ensure that they meet sales targets. The SCSP also manages cash and e-float directly with agents and takes agents’ cash to the bank for them. Typically, a distributor hires dedicated employees for each major product line. For m-banking, a SCSP will need one full-time employee for every 50 agents or so. In return, SCSPs receive a commission for each new account opened as well as for ongoing transactions.

So what is the business case for SCSPs? It is too early to answer this question definitively, but one SCSP from East Delhi, Mr. Sinha*, provides some clues. He has worked as a distributor for two major FMCG chains for over five years and makes about $4,500 profit a month. Mr. Sinha has just added EKO’s product to his existing distribution business in December 2009. He is very enthusiastic about EKO’s business potential and says it meets a real, unmet need in the Indian population. He has signed up 70 of his existing retailers to act as EKO agents. In January, his agents opened just 500 accounts but by February this had jumped to 2,000 accounts with 3,000 expected in March. In February, he made $650 profit from EKO business (equivalent to 14% of his distributor profits). Although this is promising, Mr. Sinha expects to make at least $1,000 a month from this business once his retailers have opened more accounts.

Mr. Sinha essentially requires a 20% increase in total profits for m-banking to be worth the effort. His EKO business is in a growth phase currently and time will tell how realistic these expectations are. One thing is clear: getting the business model right for SCSPs like Mr. Sinha will be critical in order for mobile money providers to build scalable agent networks.

* Names have been changed

-Claudia McKay

Thai gov't to end prolonged anti-gov't rally

Tue, 2010-05-11 16:06
The government announced on Sunday that it plans to send a short message service or SMS to the anti-government protesters to tell them that their gathering ...
See all stories on this topic

After Omar's protest, Kashmir SMS curbs withdrawn - Worldnews.com

Tue, 2010-05-11 16:06
Zeenews Bureau New Delhi/Jammu: The Union Home Ministry on Friday said the order curbing SMS services in Jammu and Kashmir has been withdrawn.

Females Consume Significantly More Mobile Content Than Males

Mon, 2010-05-10 17:23

In its latest BoomBox report for the month of April, Myxer indicates that females are far more prolific mobile content users than males, by a long shot.

The new report looked at female consumption habits compared to males, using unique data broken down by new users, smartphone concentration, content downloads and wireless carriers.  The results were very surprising.

According to the study, for the month of April females downloaded twice the amount of mobile entertainment content as males, with 4.5 million downloads, or 67% of total content downloads, compared to 2.2 million downloads for males.  This large disparity in downloads is due to two factors; there are roughly 1.7 times as many females as males downloading content from Myxer on a monthly basis, and each female that visits downloads 17% more content than the average male.

Even more interesting is Myxer’s breakdown of downloads by gender on Android and iPhones, where females far outnumber males once again.  The average female using an Android device downloaded 7.6 pieces of content for the month of April, while the average male visiting Myxer on an Android device only downloaded 6.0 items during that time, or 21% less than the average female.  This is a big contrast to iPhone handsets where females only downloaded 6% more than males, or 3.0 items compared to 2.8 items respectively.

Mobile phone revolution in the Tundra?

Mon, 2010-05-10 09:56

By John Postill

Stammler, F. M. (2009). Mobile Phone Revolution in the Tundra? Technological change among Russian reindeer nomads. Folklore (Tartu) 41, 47-78.

Tentative discussion as author didn’t focus on mobile phones during anthropological fieldwork. Paper based on fieldwork and conversations in 1998-2007.

Mobile phones could well turn out to be revolutionary among Russian reindeer nomads. Novelty is that mobiles bring to Tundra ‘real-time interactive private oral communication’, p. 52.

Mobiles require little energy, and herders already had small portable power generators for lighting years ago, p. 62. Phones carried under their parkas (malitsa), close to body; this protects batteries from winter cold, p. 62

Elena interesting remark: ‘There is nothing to talk about when you visit your neighbours’ – coz now can keep up with news and gossip via mobiles, p. 63

[Great for micro-coordination, see Ling]. For example:

1. Male herder said you can now be with herd and on your way home and tell wife to ‘heat the stove and brew some fresh tea’, p. 63.

2. Reindeer herdering union’s HQ could coordinate slaughters, timing, supplies, meat delivery to oil company settlement, etc, all via mobiles, p. 64

3. collect info for herders’ insurance companies, p. 64 [Freedom of the tundra and modcons all at once? where do I sign up?]

In sum, there is much potential of mobiles to improve herders’ livelihoods, p. 65

Mobile trends among reindeer nomads:

  • Young men are early adopters and drivers of mobile phone changes
  • Middle-aged men starting to use mobiles for work as well as networking with relatives
  • Young and middle-aged women use phones more for leisure, incl. news and gossip, p. 66

In 2006 (only seven months after mobiles introduced) herders laughed at anthropologist for using ‘totally outdated’ mobile and in 2007 for using ‘female’ handset, i.e. have been very quick to absorb wider societal normative views on mobiles.

Researchers in metropolitan centres have argued that mobiles increase the elasticity of life, from precise moments of pre-mobile life to ‘approximate’ moments, esp. teens and young adults ability to ‘tie together their peer group against the backdrop of a relatively nomadic life’.

But in Russian Tundra very different: mobiles don’t increase freedom, they reduce it: ‘planning security increases, moments are stated more precisely, and life becomes less “elastic”‘ , i.e mobiles ‘tighten the grip on people’s life rhythm, and reduce freedom and flexibility’, p. 71.

A Real Watershed Moment for Citizen Journalism in South Africa

Fri, 2010-05-07 23:46
Citizen journalism or citizen media editors seem have been around for four or five years in the US and elsewhere, but full-time appointments are rare in our ...
See all stories on this topic

…My heart's in Accra » Lindaba Ziyafika – The News is Coming

Fri, 2010-05-07 23:44
What can we learn from the project? Making citizen media work in poor countries requires: - heavy training and some cash incentives for participants - mobile news first, print second - embrace of mobile-friendly platforms ...
...My heart's in Accra - http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/

Giving a voice to India's villagers

Fri, 2010-05-07 23:44
BBC News Listening to their complaints and grievances are Bhan Sahu and Budhan Meshram, who are "reporters" or "citizen journalists" for CGnet Swara (Chhattisgarh ...
See all stories on this topic

Can mobiles close the digital divide?

Fri, 2010-05-07 23:44
Citizen services are now increasingly available on mobile phones, with both the public and private sector playing a role in their delivery. ...
See all stories on this topic

YouTube Direct 2.0, Citizen Reporting Made Easy

Fri, 2010-05-07 23:44
“Last fall, we announced the release of YouTube Direct, a tool that allows media organizations to request, review and rebroadcast YouTube clips directly ...
See all stories on this topic

Mobile Phone-Based News System Gives Voice to Tribals

Fri, 2010-05-07 23:43
Choudhary, who grew up in Chhattisgarh and now lives in Delhi, says the idea spawned from a citizen journalism website, CG Net, which he started to serve as ...
See all stories on this topic

MacArthur Foundation Announces Development of New MDP Programs

Thu, 2010-05-06 18:45

Authored by: Heather Esper

Individuals looking to return to school in order to prepare for a career working with the base of the pyramid often struggle in deciding which degree (MBA, MPH, MPA, MS) makes the most sense. In the past students have had to make a large investment in their education before truly knowing what sector is the best fit for them, others end up choosing to go the dual degree route. A Master’s in Development Practice (MDP), seems to combine many of the more traditional Master’s programs in order to allow students to think across fields and develop a broader spectrum of skills.

Yesterday the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced that it will be giving $5.6 million to ten universities in eight different countries to create MDP programs. The degree will include an education from a combination of numerous fields such as social, health and natural sciences, as well as management. These grants are the final set of a larger $16 million investment by MacArthur to create new Master’s programs in sustainable development. 400 graduates per year are expected by 2013.

The universities to create new MDP programs are:

  • BRAC University (Dhaka, Bangladesh)

  • The Institute of Political Sciences (Paris, France)

  •  Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (Turrialba, Cost Rica)

  •  Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia)

  •  Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) 

  •  University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, California) 

  • University of California, Davis (Davis, California)

  • University of Peradeniya (Peradeniya, Sri Lanka)

  •  University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada)

  • University of Winnipeg (Winnipeg, Canada)

LikLike the Columbia University’s Earth Institute and other MDP programs, the curriculum will be open-access with a focus on practical application, and include extensive operational experiences. 

(author unknown)06925501290790607114

FrontlineSMS gets reminders

Thu, 2010-05-06 08:53

For some time now users have been asking how they can schedule SMS reminders in FrontlineSMS. Well, now they can thanks to some great work by Dale Zak on a ReminderManager plugin. Not only is this great news for the community, but it’s great news for us, and is testament to the growing interest external developers are taking in the software

FrontlineSMS is powerful open source software that turns an ordinary laptop and mobile phone into a low cost communications hub. It’s used by NGOS around the world to send and receive text messages for such efforts as human rights monitoring, disaster relief, education programs and fundraising campaigns. It’s also at the heart of FrontlineSMS:Medic which is revolutionizing global health by empowering rural healthcare workers.

So when my friend Lucky Gunasekara asked if I could develop a much requested reminder plugin, I jumped at the opportunity. For one, it gave me an excuse to dive into the FrontlineSMS source code. And two, it would benefit the entire community.

The FrontlineSMS Reminders Plugin allows you to schedule email and SMS reminders for a specific date range occurring once, hourly, daily, weekly or monthly.

There was a bit of a learning curve to develop the plugin, especially with my somewhat limited Java, Hibernate and Thinlet experience. Thankfully Alex Anderson and Dieterich Lawson were great help answering my questions on the FrontlineSMS Google Group.

The plugin definitely has room for improvement, and I already have a few ideas for additional occurrence types – Every Weekend, Every Weekday, Every Sunday, etc.

You can checkout the source code here:

You can read the original article here. Thanks to Dale for kindly giving us permission to republish.

Ushahidi vs. Managing News is moot. How about a hosted solution?

Thu, 2010-05-06 04:55

The excellent MobileActive.org features an article looking at the relative merits of Ushahidi and Managing News. It concludes by noting that,

Use Ushahidi if you need to get set up fast (or remotely), aren’t looking to do extensive customization of the workflow, and have requirements that fit the crisis mapping paradigm of reports that are approved by a human moderator. As for SMS, FrontlineSMS integration will get you started and Clickatell is easy to set up for outgoing messages, but reliability may dictate investigating other options in the long term.

Use Managing News if you’re interested in building a significantly customized system, or have requirements that fit best with a news feeds paradigm. Managing News has been built with a view to being a platform as well as a product, and makes good use of Drupal to do this. SlingshotSMS looks like a good option for a DIY SMS server, and as with Ushahidi, the OpenLayers-based mapping is highly configurable. For slick and beautiful maps, Managing News’ MapBox integration is hard to beat.

It’s a good article, but fails to address yet again the fundamental caveat of both systems from the perspective of most citizen journalists and citizen journalism initiatives – they are very complex to install.

The author notes that,

Once downloaded, both systems should be relatively simple to install. Ushahidi’s instructions (available on the wiki here) are clear and easy to follow, even without much web experience, and there are some links to alternative install instructions too. Managing News assumes a more technical user, so it might be a little more difficult if you aren’t used to reading the instructions several times and googling a word here or there, but it’s certainly not complicated either.

From the perspective of a tech savvy person or journalist, this may well be right. But,

  • What about instructions in languages other than English?
  • What about those who have no idea about a LAMP stack or access to a server? In fact, in over 10 years of interacting with media in Sri Lanka, South Asia and elsewhere, I have not found a single journalist who understands any of the technologies or configuration needed to set up either system.

Pegged to these questions is how applicable these systems are in locales where there is no funding and / or technical expertise to set them up and moreover, to sustain them through technical maintenance. While a large media organisation like Al Jazeera will use Ushahidi and large NGOs will use Managing News, both have access to significant financial and technical resources the majority of citizens and civil society will not. Heck, even I don’t – and my work in using Web 2.0 and ICTs for, inter alia, election monitoring, has eschewed to date the use of any of these platforms simply because they are too difficult to set up and maintain.

The lens of the geek lends itself to a latent technocracy. The thrust seems to be that Ushahidi and Managing News, by virtue of making information accessible, are accessible platforms as well. This is erroneous reasoning, and strongly calls for the great divide between the use of these tools and their actual usefulness needs to be fleshed out in a more honest, robust manner.

A solution could be in the cloud – has anyone at either Ushahidi or Managing News thought about a hosted solution?

Much like WordPress.com (versus self-hosted WordPress) this could make available the power of both platforms without the hassle of setting them up, opening them both to a world of uses that the current models of installation simply cannot engender.

Filed under: ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace)

How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Project

Wed, 2010-05-05 18:17

My colleague Ankit Sharma at the London School of Economics (LSE) recently sent me his research paper entitled “Crowdsourcing Critical Success Factor Model” (PDF). It’s definitely worth a read. Ankit is interested in better understanding the “dynamic and innovative discipline of crowdsourcing by developing a critical success factor model for it.” He focuses specifically on mobile crowdsourcing and does a great job unpacking the term.

Ankit first reviews four crowdsourcing projects to inform the development of his critical success model: txtEagle, Ushahidi, Peer Water Exchange and mCollect. He then notes the crucial difference between outsourcing and crowdsourcing. The latter’s success is dependent on the scale of crowd participation. This means that incentives need to tailored to recruit the most effective collaborators while “the motive of the crowd needs to be aligned with the long term objective of the crowdsourcing initiative.” To this end, Ankit defines successful crowdsourcing in terms of participation.

Ensuring participation requires that the motives of the of the crowd be directly aligned with the long term objectives of the crowdsourcing initiative. “Additionally, to promote participation the users must use and accept the technology of crowdsourcing.” Ankit draws on Heeks and Nicholson (2004), Carmel (2003) and Farrell (2006) to develop the following model.

The five peripheral factors above “affect the motive alignment of the crowd which is the prime determinant of success of the crowdsourcing initiative. It is assumed to directly affect user participation. The success of the initiative is expected to bring in more participation. Hence, the relationship between motive alignment and crowdsourcing success is bidirectional in the model.”

  • Vision and Strategy: “The coherence of the initiative’s vision and strategy with the aspirations of the crowd ensures that the crowd is willing to participate in it.”
  • Human Capital: The skills and abilities that the crowd possesses is a determinant of successful crowdsourcing. The more skillful and able the crowd is, “the less effort required by the crowd to make a meaningful contribution to the initiative.”
  • Infrastructure: “Crowdsourcing requires abundant, reliable and cheap telephone or mobile access for its communication needs in order to ensure participation of the crowd.”
  • Linkages and Trust: Crowdsourcing initiatives all involve a time or information cost for the crowd, which is why developing the trust factor is critical. Proper linkages can also “add a substantial trust aspect to the crowdsourcing initiative.”
  • External environment: “The macroeconomic environment comprising of the governance support, business environment, economic environment, living environment and risk profiles are important determinants of the success of the crowdsourcing initiative.”
  • Motive alignment: “Motive alignment of the crowd may be defined as the extent to which crowd is able to associate with long term objective of crowdsourcing initiative thereby encouraging its wider participation.” The table below explains how the peripheral factors effect the motive alignment of the crowd.”

Ankit applies his matrix to the four case studies cited earlier. This yields the following summary:

Based on this analysis, Ankit argues that for crowdsourcing projects to succeed it is “critical that the crowd is viewed as a partner in the initiative. The needs, aspirations, motivations and incentives of the crowd to participate in the initiative must remain the most important consideration while developing the crowdsourcing initiative. The practitioners must understand the crowd motivation and align their goals according to it.” In an ideal scenario, Ankit notes that technology must be “optimally usable” without the need to provide training and assistance. Successful crowdsourcing initiatives also require an “aggressive marketing and public relations plan.”

The main question I look forward to discussing with Ankit is this: what level of crowd participation is sufficient for a crowdsourcing initiative to be deemed successful? Should this be a percentage? e.g., the % of a given population participating in the crowdsourcing project. Or should the number be an absolute number? This is not an academic question. Who decides whether a crowdsourcing project is successful and based on what grounds?

Patrick Philippe Meier