This is truly an excellent example of the intersection of Open Innovation, globalization and technology. I saw it in a SpringWise, a publication reporting on new business ideas. This is a new project that aims to bring income opportunities to those in the developing world using the ubiquitous mobile phone.
Targeting the more than 2 billion literate mobile phone subscribers in the developing world, txteagle aims to help alleviate high unemployment levels in many rural areas of countries like Kenya with a crowdsourcing approach that offers new ways to earn extra money. The service connects corporations with small tasks to be completed—currently, the most common ones include software localization and translation into local dialects for companies like Nokia—and native people who can complete them in minutes by cell phone. Tasks are sent to multiple phone users by text message—”translate the phrase, ‘address book’ into Giriama,” for example—and answers are accepted as accurate when the majority of users provide the same response. Compensation is determined by the number of times an individual’s response agrees with the consensus; penalties are imposed for wrong answers, while “don’t know” responses make no contribution. Over time the system learns a particular user’s expertise, and can actively select the most appropriate tasks for them. It can also weight answers from long-term and historically accurate users higher than others, making it necessary to involve fewer other individuals when those users respond. Payment is made either to a bank account connected with an individual’s phone number—accessible at any post office or local kiosk—or via airtime credit transfers.
Ruth & Betty, Home-Maker / Village Phone Operator, Butare, Rwanda. Ruth is the mother of four and while she reads and writes English fluently, she hasn’t been able to find much work in her local village. She’d like to own a phone, but hasn’t been able to save up the money. Betty operates a village phone in Ruth’s village. By ‘renting’ the phone to Ruth for 50 cents/hour during off-peak times when Betty has no other customers, Ruth is able to complete 3 hours of transcription tasks – accumulating $7.50 into her savings account and $1.50 into Betty’s account. A couple of more sessions like that and Ruth will be able to afford her own phone!