Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Division of Labor: Via Txteagle

Economist magazine reports:
THE idea came to Nathan Eagle, a research scientist with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, when he was doing a teaching stint in rural Kenya. He realised that, as three-quarters of the 4.6 billion mobile-phone users worldwide live in developing countries, a useful piece of technology is now being placed in the hands of a large number of people who might be keen to use their devices to make some money. To help them do so, he came up with a service called txteagle which distributes small jobs via text messaging in return for small payments.

Only 18% of people in the developing world have access to the internet, but more than 50% owned a mobile-phone handset at the end of 2009 (a number which has more than doubled since 2005), according to the International Telecommunication Union. One study shows that adding ten mobile phones per 100 people in a typical developing country boosts growth in GDP per person by 0.8 percentage points.

Mr Eagle hopes txteagle will do its bit by mobile “crowdsourcing”—breaking down jobs into small tasks and sending them to lots of individuals. These jobs often involve local knowledge and range from things like checking what street signs say in rural Sudan for a satellite-navigation service to translating words into a Kenyan dialect for companies trying to spread their marketing. A woman living in rural Brazil or India may have limited access to work, adds Mr Eagle, “but she can still use her mobile phone to collect local price and product data or even complete market-research surveys.” Payments are transferred to a user’s phone by a mobile money service, such as the M-PESA system run by Safaricom in Africa, or by providing additional calling credit.
Read the rest here.

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