Südwind Stammtisch

Yesterday I participated at the Südwind Stammtisch. It was a meeting of different people from the organization Südwind and interested people from other organizations.

Südwind is an Austrian NGO which is dealing with awareness raising in various sectors – such as fair trade, the state of asylum seekers and generally foreigners in Austria or development assistance. Furthermore they operate several bookshops, a magazine and an online picture database.

At the meeting there were representatives of Südwind, Attac, Oikocredit Austria and of course me from ICT4D.at.

The topic of the meeting was Web 2.0 and digital ways to communiate with interested people in general, and it was interesting to hear from Südwind how they were thinking of Web 2.0 – coming from a more traditional media perspective. They would like to engage people to contribute content via Web 2.0, but it seems more complicated than expected.

Florian Hörantner from Attac then introduced the 90-9-1 rule, which states that only 9% of observers and readers of content also become active from time to time and only 1% are contributing frequently. For internet users this ratio may even be worse.

A significant advantage of online media over traditional media which was identified was the huge user base of several social networks. Also the possibility to directly link to contextual information was appreciated. Another point which was brought up was the ecological aspect – as there is no paper waste with email.

What was questioned though, was if due to the information overload and email flood it was even possible to create long-term attention and engagement by online tools and messages only. Measures to support this were brought forward: tailor newsletters to fit the target group (simple vs. visually appealing), create possibilities for users to actively contribute and be transparent so that users also have influence on posted content, create incentives – such as competitions with prizes (e.g. foto competition).

Two other interesting – bot non IT-related – questions which were discussed were:

  • What actions would cause somebody to change their behaviour in the long term?
  • How to engage people which may not be interested in the topic, and how to persuade people which are interested in the topic but not sympathetic to your organization?

I’m glad having attended the meeting, it was very interesting and insightful. Südwind is in place working on various topics surrounding developing countries already 30 years and it’s great to learn from, and discuss with experienced NGO members.

Next date the Stammtisch will take place is 11 January 2010. The topic will be how to handle prejudice and populist propaganda in everyday discussion – and if I find time I will attend again.

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Südwind Stammtisch
was published on 15.12.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Voice services

Although many high end projects have been launched in the field of ICT4D, most of the people still can be reached through established media such as radio, television or the basic mobile phone functions – SMS and voice calls. Therefore it doesn’t surprise me that some of the most successful projects in ICT4D (FrontlineSMS, Ushahidi, Tradenet, …) rely on these basic features (mostly SMS) for the front end.

An idea of mine which appeared in the course of writing my thesis was to provide updated information from the internet on a telephone number. Me and my colleagues David Hauer and Andreas Hornich wrote the prototype NoisR which uses the service Podlinez for this purpose. Right now, my colleagues work on expanding this prototype with some new features, I’m curious what will be the outcome.

Recently I’ve come across several other projects with a quite similar approach – to provide information from the internet in an audible representation accessible by phone. Or to just provide functionality of the internet for people without internet and computer.

One project was just recently launched by fellow blogger Drew CogbillPigeon.

In his own words:

“Pigeon is a social network that you access through a phone call.  Pigeon gives you one voice message that lasts one minute to tell your world what’s up.  You can think of your Pigeon message as a voice status update, an audio micro-blog, or space for citizen journalism.”

He even uploaded a short video on youtube to demonstrate the functions and now invites everybody to try out the service. Several tools which work quite alike are listed in another blog post of his.

Another service I have an eye on already a while, is Mosoko. It tries to provide functions similar to Craigslist, only by voice.

I really think these projects have potential, also keeping in mind the high rates of illiteracy in lesser developed countries which inhibit access to information represented in written form. Furthermore, as already mentioned, the access to mobile phones is increasingly given, whereas the access to computers and internet is not – I am wondering if there are also successful initiatives which combine the internet with radio, which is an even more popular ICT.

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Voice services
was published on 20.11.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Business fights poverty

After reading through several reviews and blog posts on the PopTech 2008 conference, it struck me that one focus of the conference this year was on development through enterprise.

There were several examples of companies offering products for the bottom of the pyramid, generating income out of it. For example Husk Power Systems generating electricity for Indian villages from rice husks or PNFC (Por Fin, Nuestra Casa), offering houses from ship containers for Mexican factory workers.

Economic sustainability is one of the key criterion for successful development products – as several scholars already identified. Entrepreneurs with knowledge of local problems and innovative solutions can foster more changes in a countries’ society and economy than any other well-meaning donators.

Now recently a social network platform focusing on people in the business sphere involved in development has been created – Business Fights Poverty.

I like the approach to use Web 2.0 tools to connect interested people – I just ask myself why these solutions always have to produce brand-new platforms and not try to connect existing ones. It would be a great thing to approach the user base of Kiva or Facebook and build something upon those systems.

Anyway, BFP seems to gain in members quickly and I wish them all the best.

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Business fights poverty
was published on 30.10.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Interesting Projects: Kiva

Through this blog post at Next Billion, a site

about how business drives positive social and environmental change in low-income communities [from here]

I recently found out about the project Kiva.

It’s a social network where everyone can login and basically start start giving microcredits to people all over the world.

The idea of microcredits is a Nobel-Prize winning form of giving credits to the poorest of the poor to enable them to change their living conditions. They are required to have a business plan to get the loan and sometimes they even have to attend business seminars, so that they can start to run a sustainable business.

The interest rate is not very high and through the initial project of Muhammad Yunus helped a lot of people in Bangladesh to free themselves from extreme poverty.

Now there have appeared several institution who give microcredits, but often the capital is missing.

Kiva solves this problem by democratizing the capital giving, allowing everyone to invest in a new business. It is possible to view the profiles of the entrepreneurs in lesser developed countries over the Kiva platform and to track their forthcomings.

Here is a link to an interview with the founder of Kiva – Premal Shah, he explains the idea very comprehensive. Watching it made me want to contribute to the idea myself.

This one is another article about Kiva in Newsweek. It displays the idea on the example of Dan Zuckerman, who lives in Tajikistan and gives microcredits there. Furthermore it’s about how Wikis make his work easier, connecting him with other people working with Kiva-loans.

Go ICT4D! Go Web 2.0!

Check it out

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Interesting Projects: Kiva
was published on 11.09.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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