Posts Tagged ‘society’

Samasource
15Megan Jones

Megan JonesApril 4, 2014

Technoport 2014: Leila Janah on Samasource and social entrepreneurship

At the end of April innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and other technology pioneers will gather in Trondheim for Technoport 2014. In the run up to this exciting event, we will publish a series of interviews with our speakers to learn more about how they are driving innovation. This week we hear from award-winning social entrepreneur Leila Janah, founder and CEO of Samasource.

How would you explain Samasource and how it works?

“Sama” is the Sanskrit word for “equal”. The entire SamaGroup (which also includes SamaUSA and Samahope) was built on a shared vision – that of an equal opportunity world, where people aren’t suffering in poverty simply because they happened to be born in a disadvantaged region. We connect people in need to medical care and to dignified work that enables them to take control over their futures.

Impact sourcing is one piece of this strategy. In simple terms, it refers to the practice of outsourcing labor to disadvantaged populations. So if you’re a large corporation and you’re regularly sending work to business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, impact sourcing allows you to use some of those contracts to fight poverty and improve lives. If only a handful of the world’s largest corporations dedicated 5% of their outsourcing portfolios to impact sourcing service providers, it would make a significant dent in global poverty.

Samasource uses the Microwork model. Can you explain what this is and how it has been implemented?

Think of the way an iPhone, or any peripheral device, connects to a computer. You use an adapter cable that allows the two devices to exchange information. The Microwork model is like a massive adapter cable that allows people in poverty to plug their brainpower into global enterprises. It’s a way of connecting these two groups – corporations and the impoverished – for mutual benefit.

Customers approach us with large data projects that require vast numbers of small human judgments. For example, a company might have thousands of photos featuring pieces of furniture that need to be carefully tagged so that computers can be trained to recognize the shape of a chair, or a couch. We break that project down into irreducible tasks, and set up a workspace for them within our technology platform. These tasks then get sent to our delivery center partners in the field, where members of disadvantaged populations are trained to complete them.

Through the Microwork model, you might see a single mother who’s lived her entire life in a Kenyan slum tagging images for a major international corporation. But what’s truly unique about the Microwork Model as a solution to poverty is the way it invests skills and experience in workers. 89% of our workers either go back to school or find further employment in the formal sector.

Some have criticized Samasource for outsourcing the work of US citizens to other countries. How do you respond to this?

This is a common misconception. The services that Samasource provides to its customers – which include huge global brands like Google, Microsoft, and LinkedIn – would in most instances be too cost-prohibitive to complete in the United States. So it’s not as if our workers in Kenya or India are out-bidding Americans for jobs. If our workers weren’t completing these data projects, they’d be completed by a BPO firm or simply not done at all.

With that said, Samasource recognizes that poverty is a global problem, and we’re equally dedicated to fighting it here in the US. I started SamaUSA for this reason. SamaUSA is a domestic program that teaches digital skills to low-income community college students, and helps them to find work on online job platforms like Elance and oDesk. SamaUSA is running in three California community colleges already, and we’re poised to scale the program through the entire country.

Do you have plans for scaling up the impact sourcing model further?

A solution to poverty is only viable if it affects a significant number of individuals, and Samasource has always targeted women and youth who support multiple dependents for this reason. We want the wages we pay to positively impact families and invest new capital in entire communities.

But we’re just one participant in a growing trend, in a fledgling industry. Right now, we’re trying to use our influence with large corporations to support the entire impact sourcing space. We believe that we can scale this model collaboratively, by compelling major brands to commit part of their outsourcing portfolios to any number of impact sourcing service providers.

Have there been any technological challenges associated with outsourcing work? What does the future hold for this?

The lack of reliable Internet access in the developing world has been a significant challenge. One of our model’s limitations is its inability to reach populations that are off the grid. In a lot of remote areas, infrastructural investments must be made before the Microwork Model can be applied and people can be recruited.

We’ve had great success, however, when those infrastructural investments have been made. We’ve partnered with Oxfam Novib and a number of other international NGOs on a project called Internet Now! that’s bringing Internet access and computer-based work to rural areas in northern Uganda. This region was devastated by the country’s civil war and never recovered. Many people there still live in huts, and walk miles every day to collect safe drinking water from public pumps. But with our partners ALIN and Inveneo, we’ve set up solar-powered, Internet-enabled centers in three rural Ugandan communities. The people there may not have running water in their homes, but they’re getting paid to complete computer-based tasks for huge global brands. It’s amazing.

What have been your main triumphs and tribulations as a social entrepreneur, and what advice would you give others? 

Samasource has now reached over 20,000 people through the wages it pays to workers. I consider that a colossal triumph, although it’s just the beginning of what we hope to accomplish. Experiencing the spark of inspiration as a social entrepreneur – that “a-ha” moment when I get an idea that I think can help people – is exhilarating, but that moment is the start of a long, arduous journey toward real impact.

When raising money to get Samasource off the ground I heard “no” from a lot from potential funders. I’ve also faced people who think I have no business being in the tech industry as a woman, and as a woman of south Asian descent. But I’ve also been lucky to find kindred spirits who are just as excited as I am about using technology to change the world.

The most valuable advice I’ve ever heard comes from Silicon Valley leader and investor Ben Horowitz: “Don’t quit.” Especially in the tech world, where successes can become obsolete within the blink of an eye, it’s crucial to a have an inner voice simply telling you to keep going, keep refining, keep striving.

Want to hear more?

Leila will speak at our A Tool For Change session at Technoport 2014. She will elaborate on the topics explored in this interview as we shed light on how innovation and entrepreneurship can change the world. Learn more about Technoport 2014.

Image credit: Samasource.org

Shareable.net
15Megan Jones

Megan JonesApril 2, 2014

Technoport 2014: Lauren Anderson on the game-changing power of collaborative consumption

At the end of April innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and other technology pioneers will gather in Trondheim for Technoport 2014. In the run up to this exciting event, we will publish a series of interviews with our speakers to learn more about how they are driving innovation. This week we hear from Lauren Anderson, Community Director at the pioneering shared economy organisation Collaborative Consumption.

1. How would you explain “collaborative consumption”?

We describe collaborative consumption as the reinvention of old market behaviours such as bartering, lending, swapping, trading and exchanging – but this time they’ve been reinvented for the Facebook age! Social, mobile and location-based technologies are enabling us to share and exchange all kinds of assets now – from physical stuff to less tangible things like time, skills and space – on a scale and in ways that wouldn’t have been possible even 10 years ago.

2. How is collaborative consumption disrupting existing models of doing business?

We are already seeing collaborative consumption disrupting established 100-year-old industries such as car manufacturing, hospitality and even banking by putting the power in the hands of the people. These new technologies are not only more efficient and often more affordable, but they also provide more authentic and personal experiences over mass-produced and standardised, which is something people are hungry for these days. Having said this, there are many ways that existing companies can, and should, get involved in understanding how this consumer shift might affect them, and what they can do to maintain relevance and build brand loyalty with these new consumers.

3. What are some examples of different types of businesses that are leading this movement?

In our directory of examples we have documented more than 1000 examples of collaborative consumption globally, and have found examples in more than 100 countries. But while there are many small local marketplaces in this space, there are also some bigger global companies who operate across a number of continents.

Airbnb, the p2p accommodation marketplace, is arguably the biggest collaborative consumption platform in the world, behind sites like eBay. TaskRabbit and similar task marketplace platforms have been hugely successful. Carsharing and bikesharing platforms are up and running in hundreds of cities around the world, transforming the ideas of mobility. And for a local start-up, EasyBring is a collaborative distribution service, or ‘crowdshipping’, tapping into a network of deliverers who can send packages for others.

4. Cities are also getting involved – tell us a bit more about that.

Cities look after a lot of the regulation at a local level, and in many cases collaborative consumption companies are not adequately dealt with in the current legislation, causing a lot of uncertainty and fear. Other than that, there are many ways cities can adopt collaborative consumption-based models to supply services to residents and also build a culture of empowered citizens rather than a passive community. We expect to see many cities following the likes of Seoul in South Korea, and Portland, Oregon, to really make Shareable Cities part of their mandate.

5. What role can collaborative consumption play in overcoming global challenges such as climate change?

As an example, most collaborative consumption platforms are focused on maximising the ‘idling’ or underused capacity of the things around us – ensuring that the things we own are used to their full potential. Other platforms are dedicated to the redistribution of stuff from where it’s not wanted to somewhere it’s needed, extending the lifecycle of products otherwise headed to landfill. And perhaps most importantly, collaborative consumption encourages people to consider whether they really need to buy something new, or if there are other ways they could access it, which might involve connecting with other people in the community.

6. Where do you see collaborative consumption going in the future?

In the future, we definitely see that there will be much more involvement from existing organisations, as well as local and even federal governments, as collaborative consumption becomes a much bigger part of the consumer ecosystem. We will start to see the most successful models of collaborative consumption being scaled and replicated around the world, and local economies will be strengthened through these new ideas. Ultimately we believe that we will be able to reduce our reliance on the consumer machine, and that we will be able to restore the balance of community and contribution that we are missing today.

Want to hear more?

Lauren will feature at our Troublemakers event at Technoport 2014. She will elaborate on the topics explored in this interview as we showcase stories of some of the individuals behind disruptive companies. Learn more about Technoport 2014.

Image credit: Shareable.net

iphone
11Annette Hovdal

Annette HovdalAugust 5, 2013

New apps could be of great importance for Norwegian police

Two master students in computer science from NTNU are this summer working on “police apps”, which could change the way we communicate with the police, and make it easier for the police to locate us, in case of an emergency.  

On 2 August, Bergen Tidende published an article about the students Eirik Mildestveit Hammerstad and Esben Aarseth, which are working on two “police apps”. The apps will be tested in Finnmark, Norway, and the Finnmark police are looking forward testing them out, saying the apps will give unlimited opportunities.

The sooner the police can form the best possible picture of different situations happening from the operation center, the better. Esben’s app could be an important tool here.  He is working on a “112-app” which uploads the caller’s exact location when calling the emergency number. As of today, if the police get an emergency phone, they do not have the information to locate the person calling. The call could be traced, but this is very expensive. The app also has an “emergency chat” which gives you the opportunity to communicate with the police without having to call.  In addition, it will be possible for people to send pictures to the police at the operating center. The ability to receive pictures can help the police to better know what missions to prioritize.  

Eirik is working on a web-app where it should be possible to book an appointment with the police, renew your passport, submit a report, and deliver a police complaint.  

The prototypes of the apps are almost finished. If the police like the apps after testing them, it is possible that the two student’s summer projects will be realized.

 We cross our fingers, and hope the apps will be a success! 

Do you have an idea to an app of public utility?

renderer_rhu_exloded
14Hermann Ørn Vidarsson

Hermann Ørn VidarssonJuly 11, 2013

Flat packed refugee homes from IKEA

How do you make a house to a family of 5 that you can fit in a station wagon?

It is IKEA’s philanthropic branch, the IKEA foundation, that is developing flat packed housing solutions to refugee camps in cooperation with the UN refugee program. The quality and design of housing in refugee camps haven’t changed much for the last 100 years and are still almost exclusively made up of tents. Understandable; as both the production and logistics of shipping and assembly tents are simple. How ever flat packed houses will keep those advantages to some degree. IKEA is hoping that when those houses reaches mass production the cost of producing one unit will be around $1000, twice as much as a tent costs today, but with an estimated lifetime of 3 years. 6 times as long as the tents used to day. The houses are also twice as big in terms of areal.

In addition the houses will be better isolated. Both by thicker materials in walls and roof (It is a specially made polymer called Rhulite), but also by the novelty “shade nett” that is mounted with approximately 15 cm from the houses roofs. They reflect sunlight during the day as well as reflect heat from the roof, keeping the living space warmer during nighttime.

The houses include a small solar panel and LED lamp, making activities like studying and cooking possible inside, even after sunset. This was an easy upgrades to the existing tents, but the light blocking material in walls of the houses makes lit evenings possible with out compromising privacy. Turning on the light inside a canvas tent cast shadows on the walls.This infringement on privacy is so strong that many people prefer to live in the darkness. All ready close to 50 pilot homes are being tested in camps in Iraq, Lebanon and Ethiopia.According to Johan Karlson, a project manager at The Refugee Housing Unit (RHU), “This is a very challenging field, we are only tapping the surface of what could be done in the future.”

What other applications could one build into such a house that would increase the living quality its inhabitants with out compromising price and logistics.
Technoport looks forward to seeing the final assemble manual that will follow this flat pack and are curious whether it will get a Nordic IKEA’esque name like “Kåk” or “Sommerstugan”.

 

Photo by the IKEA foundation

Kjell Jøran Hansen
11Annette Hovdal

Annette HovdalJuly 11, 2013

Solar mirror: the sun always shines in Rjukan

Rjukan, a small Norwegian city, is situated in a deep valley. The sun is gone for 6 months every year. A big solar mirror will now give Rjukan sun throughout the year.   

May 2013: After years of planning, the work on installing a big solar mirror, a heliostat, with a surface of 100 square meters, began on a hillside over the city. When the construction is completed, it will adjust the sun’s movements, reflect the sunlight, and transmit light to a fixed spot in the city centre throughout the year. A computer program will make sure that the mirror adjusts the sun’s movements.

The construction weighs 14 ton, and every part is moved up on the hillside by a helicopter.  In Italy you can find a similar construction, but it is not nearly as large and complex as the one in Rjukan.

However, the idea to use a big mirror to reflect the sun in Rjukan is not at all new. In 1913, a worker, Oscar Kittelsen, suggested that Rjukan should install a mirror up on a hillside so that the sun would reach the city centre during the winter.  Now, finally, a hundred years later Kittelsen’s dream is coming to life (nrk.no).

To see how the solar mirror works, click here

Photo by: Kjell Jøran Hansen (CC)