Development 2.0 - idle hands are still the work of the devil

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Waiting for the bus and have nothing better to do than play around with your phone? Games are no longer the only options - now you can volunteer. The Extraordinaires (hat tip: Chris Kreutz) "delivers micro-volunteer opportunities to mobile phones that can be done on-demand and on-the-spot." Here's some examples of what you could do while waiting for your doctor's appointment: translate micro-finance loan applications (Kiva); transcribe subtitles for human rights videos (Witness) or help immigrants improve their English (Phone ESL). A nice example of tapping into the collective "cognitive surplus" for social innovation purposes.

And micro-volunteering isn't the end of it - mobile phones are also being used to tackle unemployment in Kenya and Rwanda. Txteagle is a service that applies Amazon's Mechanical Turk concept to mobile phones. It allows corporations to crowdsource (for a definition, click here) the execution of small tasks to people who would otherwise struggle to access the labour market, provided they have access to a mobile phone. Here's an example of the service in action:

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!

It is going to be interesting to see how initiatives like these evolve over time and whether they manage to scale up.

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