A couple of months ago, Bratislava created an “innovation” fund that is supposed to allocate small grants to COs in the region on a competitive basis. The first tranche of the fund has been launched and several COs have already received funding. Ukraine is one of the COs selected. While on mission in Kyiv, I was asked to provide comments on the draft ToRs. The proposal is here: Ukraine_Crowdsourcing for NHDR and the ToRs here Ukraine-ToRs-Crowdsourcing.
Here are my comments.
1. The ToRs are on the right track and seemed to have captured most of the key points. There are however a few issues that need to be highlighted or developed further.
2. As I mentioned yesterday in our quick meeting, crowdsourcing is not really a new idea as it has been in used since 2007. What is really new about crowdsourcing and other new applications is that they have emerged in developing countries (and not in the developed North), in response to addressing issues issues that perhaps in most cases do not happen in the developed world.
3. Most people in the world are NOT connected to the Internet (is spite of what we read in the daily press). In fact only 2.5 billion people in the globe access the Internet. On the other hand over 6 billion people have access to a basic mobile phone, and 75% of them live in developing countries. Crowsourcing also takes this fact into account and provides a gateway between those who are not on the Internet (the vast majority) and those who are connected. This is why it is so relevant in countries where Internet penetration is still weak.
4. According to latest statistics, Ukraine has less that 35% Internet penetration whereas mobile subscribers are over 120% -and again, most of the latter have access to a basic mobile device. The country is thus fertile territory to use crowdsourcing technologies for various purposes.
5. A couple of months ago, we recently published a report on mobile technologies that you might find useful. The report is here: ww.undpegov.org/mgov-primer.html and we pouched hard copies to all COs. There you will find some stats as well as plenty of examples on how crowdsourcing and mobiles are being used for development purposes.
6. Going back to the ToRs, I will suggest to drop the innovation/innovative language as well as the online/offline split -as crowdsourcing banks on both and does a great job.
7. It also seems to me that the ToRs are very concerned with the technology and technological platform and seem to pay a bit less of attention to the participation angle. The standard technology for crowdsourcing is called Ushahidi (we described this in our mobiles report) which is a open source platfrom freely available to anyone who wants to use it. Actually, setting up an Ushahidi or similar platform is simple and should not cost very much. However, the old saying of “build it and they will come” does not always holds.
8. The critical aspect of any crowdsourced driven event is to ensure that stakeholders are willing to participate. In a topic such as the NHDR this might be a bit tricky as perhaps the topic is not as attractive as reporting violence, potholes on a street or paying bribed to traffic agents. An effort should be made to ensure that stakeholders are willing to engage and will effectively engage. The last thing we want is to have a crowdsourcing platform with little information being crowdsourced by the people. This is not a technical issue but rather a participation one that requires some attention. If there is no demand for something then we need to invest a little to help create such demand. Part of this in included in the last output suggested by the ToRs but need to be prioritized base don
our experience in other countries.
9. The other key element in the process is to make sure that representation on the regions is balanced. As Internet penetration is weaker in those areas we should expect less involvement from those stakeholders via the regular “social media” outlets. This will entail that SMS inputs are prioritized in the regions so we can ensure that people who are not on the Internet do have a voice in the process. To make this happen we will also need to ensure that texting on the NHDR is very low cost or free. For this we will need to get as partner the national telecom operator and/or mobile provider.