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KOLOROB: ONLINE AND MOBILE APPLICATION FOR SLUM DWELLERS - Update: subject matter expert feedback 12/22

Kolorob offers a distinct technology-based solution to resolve the information deficit between service users and service providers

Photo of David Sweeting

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

The Problem: For those unlucky enough to live in informal settlements and slums of Dhaka, a common issue experienced, is limited access to appropriate and accurate information on essential services. Without readily available and reliable information, families are unable to make the most appropriate choice about schools, health clinics or even child protection services for their children. With over 15 million people set across 325 sq. km area; slums and informal settlements make up 30% of Dhaka’s population and, frequently, are viewed outside of formal governance structures, laws and regulations. Our idea: Kolorob is a globally unique, collaborative web and mobile application for Dhaka, Bangladesh, to be developed, extended, and scaled to slum dwellers. The app will include an on-line directory of service providers, interactive maps, crowd-sourced reviews, and culturally-specific interfaces to formal and informal services in local slum areas. The app will be delivered to slum dwellers through a combination of physical information kiosks hosted in slums, and apps installed on mobile devices.

WHO BENEFITS?

Kolorob’s vision is to create an on-line platform to improve access to information on essential services aimed at reaching a large proportion of the estimated 2-3 million residents living below the poverty line in Dhaka. This application has potential to impact a growing young population and social mobilisers in local neighbourhoods. Bangladesh has 13.2 million social media users which presents a unique opportunity to go to scale across Dhaka. We are testing the model in two slum areas in 2015.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

Kolorob will enable users and service providers to search, rate and crowd-source feedback on essential service provision. In addition the project will offer online access through information kiosks during pilot. These information kiosks will act as touch points for those who do not have access to mobile phone technology. Information kiosk are housed in pre-existing information / community centres as a way to capture a new audience and expand the network of users. Both the app and kiosk will be locally designed in partnership with local communities, universities, software designers and architects. The linkage to climate change is clear; the app has functionality to make reference to a range of services impacted by climate change such as: government and community buildings and evacuation centres, sewerage and basic infrastructure, roads and footpaths, local energy supply, public space, parks, and gardens - all of which have a major role in determining the resilience of slums.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for one year or less

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

My name is David Sweeting, Urbanisation Adviser for Save the Children Australia. My research interests focus on slum and informal settlement improvement, technology and mapping, inclusive governance, and strategic partnerships for innovation. Follow us @https://www.facebook.com/scib.kolorob

IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?

Kolorob is a new innovation for Bangladesh, which has been under design since June 2015. The project is currently in the design phase; our Save the Children Bangladesh project team have completed mapping and survey exercises in two slum communities in Dhaka. By the end of 2015 we anticipate the project will have already completed the following activities:  A comprehensive slum mapping process to cover 2 slums in Dhaka;  Detailed user experience design, testing and implementation of application;  Detailed survey of essential services in target slums; and  Design and production of an information kiosk to house the application in a physical space.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?

Kolorob - Bengali for ‘clamour’- can be described as a marketplace and information exchange for local people - and seeks to be a cross between Google Maps and Trip Advisor, purpose-built for service providers and users to gather and exchange information on essential services that every slum dweller needs. A similar application does exist; developed by The International Rescue Committee (IRC), a humanitarian organization providing relief and resettlement services to people impacted by crisis, who launched the application 'IRC Service Info', an online platform that will enable refugees in Lebanon to search and rate aid and commercial services – ranging from healthcare to financial services and retail – online or over the phone. Despite Kolorob and IRC Service Info sharing similar features, we see Kolorob being unique in that it differs in three distinct ways: 1) Kolorob targets slum dwellers who have limited knowledge of the range and spread of services available 2) Unlike Service Info, we need to physically map and digitally record slum communities, in order to spatially locate those services. 3) Kolorob embraces a human centred design approach and focus on the user experience

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

Can we seamlessly find methods to use data in ways that are genuinely meaningful for slum dwellers? The design and evolution of the on-line platform is a central theme for any developer - this issue is particularly important for Kolorob we attempt to under our 'customers' to encourage regular and frequent usage of the application. This means designing Kolorob to offer a combination of a solid foundation built with inherent flexibility that allows users to seize and share information and make it their own; this is also a key characteristic of many of the digital platforms that will flourish in the years to come.

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

Dhaka ranks in the top 10 largest urban agglomerations in Asia and is one of the largest megacities in the world with over 15 million people set across 325 sq. km area6. Slums and informal settlements make up 30% of Dhaka’s population and, frequently, are viewed outside of formal governance structures, laws and regulations. People living in these areas find it extremely difficult to access basic services. Slum dwellers suffer more spatial, social and economic exclusion compared to more wealthy urban counterparts, this further limits their capability to access opportunities offered by the broader urban environment including essential services.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?

During our ideation stage we held focus group discussions with our target audience, the residents of Bauniabadh and Paris Road slums, who talked about a lack reliable communication channels through which they can obtain trustworthy information about services and service providers. In this context, residents largely depend on word-of-mouth to learn of and vet services. As best, this information is inconsistent, and leaves a considerable knowledge gap within the community. Thus Kolorob’s offer of providing free reliable information about key services at the click of a button held universal appeal. This was doubly true for residents who had moved into the slums recently – they have little opportunity to tap into established word-of-mouth networks, making the knowledge gap significantly more acute in their case. We face a few ethical dilemmas that we had not originally expected. Most of these related to the ethical permissibility of listing certain types of information within the app (formal vs. informal). How to overcome these dilemmas is still being debated within our team. Some examples include: - Should we list information, such as applying for a passport often requires informal ‘fees’ instituted by officials? -Given the pharmacies dispense medicines without assessing patients, is it ethical for Kolorob to refer patients to these places? -If we put information about micro-credit institutes in the app, should we also include informal moneylenders?

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

Kolorob has potential to make a valuable contribution to addressing this important development issue through the use of mobile technology, the internet and visual mapping applications. But ultimately we foresee the Kolorob project achieving the following:  Test and transition the online and mobile application from beta version to live release, free to download;  Scale-up Kolorob’s mapping coverage to be city wide across Dhaka;  A partnership with Dhaka City Corporation to rollout of information kiosks across the city  Generating robust evidence to answer critical policy questions in relation Kolorob's influence in improving service quality

test.

Our team have put some considerable thought into ways in which Kolorob can support service providers to reach out. Besides Kolorob's online presence, the project is working with a local design studio, PARAA (http://paraa.org.uk/about/) to design portable information kiosks that can be housed in local community centres in the target area.

How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?

Kolorob will allow existing groups of people with common civic issues to direct their concerns to city government officials, e.g. the city commissioner. KOLOROB will generate graphical representations based on those concerns so the addressed office can easily understand the category and severity of the issue. A discussion board will be added to KOLOROB via public portal to increase debate and discussion about these civic concerns, but also allow individuals to rate the importance of these concerns. The rating system acts as a touch point for other local civil society organisations, for instance, to identify active citizen groups or individual volunteer to spearhead local climate change resilience projects. By way of profiling clients through the ratings system, additionally, Kolorob can support service providers to expand their market or improve their service, i.e data collected from Kolorob can help service providers better understand what clients like or dislike about their service.

15 comments

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi David!

Our experts had the following comment on your idea:

This is a good innovation but it would be good if you can link this with the essential providers to help out on reaching out to community with or without connectivity.

Have you given thought to this? We'd love to hear your response! 

Photo of David Sweeting
Team

Hi Chioma,

This is a great question - our team have put some considerable thought into ways in which Kolorob can support service providers to reach out. Besides Kolorob's online presence, the project is working with a local design studio, PARAA (http://paraa.org.uk/about/) to design portable information kiosks that can be housed in local community centres in the target area. 

We also believe Kolorob is a two way communication channel where service providers will reach out to the community, and the community will reach out to the service providers. We expect that (in future), the service providers will encourage the smartphone users to seek information about their services and communicate by using KOLOROB app. The users, who don’t have smartphones or access to internet, can be encouraged to seek information using information KIOSK and seek help from friends/neighbours who have smartphones with KOLOROB App installed. This is how the essential service providers can reach out to community with or without connectivity.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi David,

Thanks so much for this. I have one last question - it looks like a lot of things are already underway - how do you envision using Amplify's support for this project?

Photo of David Sweeting
Team

Hi Chioma,

There are many activities underway, but the platform is still a prototype, and we will need design support to take the prototype to full application. Within the current design, we expect many other features to be developed,which would benefit from IDEO's involvement.  We are building the platform on open source software, so that the system is non proprietal, for now. However, the platform is the first stage in developing a larger concept  -this is where IDEO comes in -where we want to push the boundaries and see if the app can scale in Dhaka but also other urban contexts. Our experience shows that working with creative agencies on development and implementation means that the innovation is tested better, more likely to scale and is more attractive for the end user. We think this project, through Save the Children, would be an excellent choice for IDEO to partner with. 

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Awesome, great answer! Thanks David - have a great holiday and happy new year! 

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