13 October 2010

Outsourcing creativity or fueling social change?

Are you familiar with crowdsourcing? Perhaps you are already doing it!
If you have used Tripadvisor.com to help you plan travel or accommodation, you are relying on the value created by crowds of users. It is a relatively new business model, to harness the creativity and knowledge of crowds, yet it is not entirely new.
'Marketing Genius' author Peter Fisk explores this and more in his new book 'Creative Genius'. The marketing function has a crucial element that is often overlooked in the rush to get new sales: researching the needs of current and potential customers.
Improvements in communications technology (the internet, mobile phones, social media applications) are creating a resurgent interest in how companies (and non-profits) can harness the inputs of crowds.
They have become a source of creative input for many enterprises; even a cost-saving method. Clothing company Threadless.com turns the buying public into a creative collaborator.
Those who create communities of interest are becoming more powerful (Facebook has more traffic than Google) as we race to engage with one-another. Crowds are becoming not just an audience, or a condiuit for spreading information, but also a source of knowledge and creativity.

But as Fisk asks, will customers demand payback for their contribution? Threadless offers discounts to people providing successful t-shirt designs. But what if crowds start to flex their influence in order to shape the news agenda? Crowdsourced input to literary works, funding for movies and now funding for photo journalism (http://bit.ly/awp5RS) can shape the world as we perceive it. If a political party or pressure group pours funds into such initiatives, will they change our minds? Can we move an organisation’s agenda? It sure beats waving placards at their doors!

Read more on 'Creative Genius'.

06 October 2010

African app developers rise to competition

East Africa continues to develop as a centre for mobile innovation, with the recent Apps4Africa competition generating interest from local software developers.

The contest was designed to stimulate interest in developing applications for smartphones, which are quickly gaining market share due to the variety of applications available. Rather than the infamous 'fart' apps that proved to be among the most popular on the iPhone, developers in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania generated ways to provide useful information, particularly for entrepreneurs and farmers.

The contest ended on 30 September and offered cash prizes and gadgets, including an iPad, for code and completed applications. Importantly, the organisers called for open-source applications, which would enable other developers to build on these efforts.

Of interest were a number of proposals for health-related apps for medical professionals and the general public, including information for expectant mothers and some directly designed to promote the Millennium Development Goals. There are clear benefits to development from providing access to mobile technology as a source of information and income, as this study from Lesotho shows. Hopefully Apps4Africa will result in even more evidence.

Flood relief is an SMS away

Pakistan flood victims and relief workers have been using Kenyan software to map the disaster and humanitarian needs via mobile phones, using SMS messages.

SMS is a well established tool for emergency fund raising in developed countries, but a relatively new tool for emergency response by relief agencies.

IRIN reports that 99 million of the 170 million Pakistani people have a mobile phone, compared to land-based communications that reach a limited number of people. That makes it a valuable tool in times of crisis, especially if reception holds up.

The UN praises the system and imagines the benefits if countries were to establish national schemes in advance of natural disasters, enabling mapping of needs and a faster response. With cell towers typically on higher ground and some degree of redundancy built into network systems, mobile phones should be relatively reliable during floods.

Pakistan is using a number of systems including Ushahidi, which was originally developed in Kenya to map ethnic violence (and mentioned on this blog in 2009).

Read more