Updates from Yanina, who’s on field in Caracas with the Harvard Team.
We’ve been received very well. But the great part has been the meetings with the Mayors of the major municipalities. We’ve met with the majors from: Chacao, Sucre, Baruta and the Mayor of Caracas. They’re all excited about the project. What’s more, they’re excited about the technology/ mobile component and are quite open and in fact welcome the use of SMS for citizen/ crime reporting. We’ve also met with the respective police of each of these municipalities, who work closely with the mayors, and they see a need for this kind of reporting via SMS. So, the government is IN and they are more than willing to collaborate.
We also met with a divisional marketing Manager for Digitel, one of the Telcos here. We mentioned the project specifications and she was quite interested in the project. They said it’s easily implementable.
The statistics on the use of mobile phones in Caracas is incredible– almost 100% of the population uses cell phones, even more in poor areas.
We’ve also met with people from the mayor’s office that are doing a lot of crowdsourcing projects thru cell phones, e-mails and IVR which is quite interesting. Tomorrow we meet with the police from Chacao and from Baruta and it looks like it’ll be another great day of meetings. There’s definitely a lot of NGO and civic participation, and even university participation.
We spent a good deal of time working on our IDEAS entry that is due this Wednesday April 15th. We’re happy in how it’s shaping up and are hoping that the judges feel the same way.
We are also looking forward to our meeting with our Project partner at the Kennedy School tomorrow. We’re gearing up for the upcoming trip to Caracas and are trying to figure out all important details to keep in mind while we’re there.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks and it will be even busier in the next couple of weeks, but we’re very excited that everything is coming together!
We finally submitted our Dell Social Innovation competition Venture Plan! We also submitted a video for it. Check it out right here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnaaIOCbfwY (Thanks Max for the help!) Making the video was a lot of fun, and putting together the venture plan was difficult but rewarding. We’re glad it’s turned in, and now we’re preparing for our meeting with our project partner today!
The weekend was eventful. We put together our application for the SEEDS and MIT IDEAS Initial proposal and have our fingers crossed!
We appreciate the valuable feedback given to us by the rest of the Nextlab teams. We are working on your comments..and they give us new direction and avenues to think about.
We worked hard on this Venture Plan. Click here to download the powerpoint.
We just had a very productive, dynamic team meeting in which we’ve determined a clear view of our value proposition and the way forward. It’s been an active 2.5 hours but we’re getting closer to where we want to be.
Best quotes of the night:
- “Elmer’s Utopia”
- “Feedback to the feedback- never use it”
- “Solution neutral value related external operand”
- “I’m supposed to be the techie and I have no idea what SMS Cloud is…”
- “That is not English”
- “No native English speakers here… uh oh…”
We found out yesterday that we made it through the first round of the Dell Social Innovation Competition. We’re very excited!
About 527 ideas were submitted and 100 ideas were selected as semifinalists to move forward to compete in Round 2 of the competition. The semifinalist list is a combination of the top 25 ideas voted by the public, plus 75 projects selected by the judges. We were amongst the 100 selected projects!
Now we need to prepare our venture plan and a 3-minute video which are due April 6th. We’re looking forward to this! Congrats to the other NextLabII teams that also made it through!
Please post your helpful suggestions to our project here.
CiviRep empowers citizens and improves feedback between citizens and local authorities by allowing rapid response and increased awareness of local situation.
CiviRep allows citizens to quickly send reports to local authorities via their mobile phones, which are received in real time on web-based maps and SMS updates to decision-makers in government. By giving community organizations and city offices user-friendly solutions, CiviRep solution empowers citizens to feedback on any event, such as violence, water contamination, natural disasters, potholes to civic organizations and authorities (e.g. relief organizations, government, international agencies, educational institutions, etc.). The mobile technology empowers citizens to report events either anonymously or not, and it allows relief workers and agents to effectively capture relevant information about the event in the form of text, images, video and audio when necessary. The web-interface allows organizations to view relevant trends, and to track data on a case-by case basis and/or at an aggregate level. This enables faster and smarter feedback mechanisms for more informed decision-making in rapid response situations. This technology allows for the development of risk mitigation and management strategies, as well as message broadcasting to citizens and agents.
Market and Impact
Currently, in the event of a natural or man-made disaster in the developing world, chaos abounds and there is a noticeable communication gap between citizens/agents and decision-makers in terms of assessing the scale of the event, the type of help that is needed, the kind of guidance to be provided to citizens, as well as a control in the flow of rumors to citizens. After disasters occur, many governments have resorted to collaborate with the World Bank and the United Nations in order to upgrade ICT infrastructure. However, it is not until recently and only in some geographic locations that some effort has been invested in leveraging the existing infrastructure of mobile phone users worldwide to enable faster reporting of information and mobilization of resources in the case of disasters and crime.
The CiviRep solution will allow organizations to make decisions in real time. Decision-makers will be able to assess the scale and evolution of important and disrupting events more quickly. This will allow organizations and or authorities to mitigate risks associated with the event, and it will provide these institutions the time to initiate a recovery process with the appropriate type of help and a continuous flow of communication with agents and citizens.
Additionally, the CiviRep solution can be used for various citizen-reporting scenarios such as crime, corruption, human rights violations, and political disturbances, among others. It is also a beneficial tool for International Organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Bank and others, which are heavily dependent on developing countries’ governments for reporting mechanisms, which adds to problems of delay in communication and magnification and/or filtering of information while reporting.
The CiviRep Solution
CiviRep is an open-source platform that can be used by anyone in the world who needs to set up a citizen reporting system. The CiviRep platform will provide the computing power of locating mobile nodes, filtering out ‘noise’ data, and displaying the data on a common map platform. This server-side processing is quite common among all citizen-reporting applications. Customers will benefit from the CiviRep cloud platform since they will not need to develop the complicated server-side processing on their own. CiviRep will provide an open API to organizations or entities who can afford their own development resources. For those without software development capability, CiviRep will provide easy-to-use guidelines that users can use to automatically generate the client-side interfaces.
Because of the availability of different technologies with different standards in different developing countries, CiviRep is being developed to be very flexible and to support a wide range of technologies. The CiviRep system can be divided into three parts: mobile client, location engine, and data visualization. The supported technology is shown below.
* Client: raw SMS, J2ME application, and native application for smartphones
* Location Engine: Geocode locating, triangulation locating, and GPS locating
* Data Visualization: Google Map, Google Earth, Yahoo Map
The CiviRep platform is a continuation of three research projects at the MIT Media Lab. Currently, there are several implementations of similar Media Lab reporting systems in developing countries. These reporting systems range from flood reporting, to wildlife sighting, to environment sensing and monitoring. CiviRep aims to establish a standard system interface and to consolidate these applications into a common platform.
The CiviRep solution can be used to track a series of events, ranging from citizen reporting to disaster management. CiviRep is currently working on prototyping models for service delivery for each of these areas and is documenting challenges, in terms of behavior, policy changes, trust/validation of reporting, SMS spoofing, and accuracy. After successful prototyping, CiviRep is planning to consolidate all offerings for a broader roll-out.
Ipshita Nag Deepak is first year System Design and Management Fellow at MIT. Prior to joining SDM, Ipshita was involved in project management, consulting, and product design for the telecom industry
Samir Sawant is second year System Design and Management Fellow at MIT. Prior to joining SDM, He had rich experience in high tech product platform design and development. Currently, he is specializing in System Architecting and Technology Strategy.
Yanina Seltzer is a second year Masters student at the Fletcher School where she is focusing on international business and development economics. Yanina has experience in economic consulting and project management.
Jeff Shi is second year system Design and Management Fellow at MIT. Prior to joining SDM, Jeff had experiences of launching a outsourcing company in China.
Elmer Soriano has worked as knowledge management consultant for the past 5 years, including a stint in post-tsunami Aceh, Indonesia forging alliances between humanitarian organizations and universities.