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Multimedia Mobile Platform For Climate Resilience - Update Dec 19

An interactive mobile platform focused on climate change messages, peer and expert networks, and edu-tainment for behavior change and action

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

The urban poor don’t have the information about resilience options, nor is their voice heard by decision and policymakers. This last-mile issue is further compounded by the urgency of climate change. There needs to be a channel which allows two-way information sharing, data gathering, and amplifies the voice of communities directly impacted by climate change, in order to develop resilience and collaborative action. Awaaz.De, an Indian social enterprise, accelerates the development of appropriate technology to reach the last mile. Awaaz.De proposes an interactive mobile platform to deliver climate resilience messaging, facilitate peer and expert networks, and edu-tainment for slum dwellers, unlocking a latent opportunity to engage and understand behavior change patterns of the poor. It has 3 components: A smartphone app for leaders, facilitators, or influencers (hubs) Audio podcasts for those with basic phones (spokes) to provide infotainment focused on climate change issues and resilience. They can engage and verbally give feedback. Data gathering/community based surveillance to design local resilience solutions It is a community driven platform to share testimonials and document actions taken, thereby building a community of practice. The technology would help design local resilience solutions, and also serve as an info dissemination source to encourage training on existing solutions. The voice based platform creates an onramp for long term behavior change.

WHO BENEFITS?

Beneficiaries are members of the slum, starting with those already engaged by partners (NGOs and community orgs). Benefits include: No literacy or language barriers to communication Real-time updates during emergencies Strong community networks Direct channels to gov and institutions for feedback Visibility into data and best practices The idea will be implemented in the slums of Ahmedabad, India, where our organization is based. From there, we will expand to other urban areas.

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

There have been few communication channels between slums and local institutions. A multimedia mobile messaging platform connects people, orgs, and government together in one forum, with two-way interaction. The idea takes into account the design principles in the following ways: The platform promotes sustained, long-term engagement through lowest-common denominator technology (mobile phones), voice (no literacy), and interaction (questions and feedback). It can also be a powerful tool for emergencies, with instant mass messaging. The mobile platform serves to connect people to a larger system. For example, citizens could submit questions and government could provide answers; community orgs could broadcast info about meeting times; experts share their latest insights; beneficiaries submit their own ideas or feedback. No matter how the dynamics change in a particular community, a mobile platform is adaptable. The mobile platform demands few resources; in fact, almost none outside of what already exists. Another design advantage is that in Indian urban areas, women are likely to have easy access to a mobile phone, therefore promoting gender equality in outreach and capturing voice. The organization behind this platform, Awaaz.De, is located in India and has worked for years directly with low-income populations, from farmers to urban slum dwellers to low-income students. The platform was built using human-computer interaction principles, and continues to evolve through feedback from beneficiaries.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

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

Awaaz.De has served hundreds of grassroots organizations, foundations, research institutions, NGOs, government agencies, village institutions through our products and services. Collectively, our users have made over 6 million phone calls to nearly 600,000 individuals across eight countries.

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

The voice technology platform is not new, but the application for usage of climate change messaging is new. We have already proven our IVR technology and its social impact through our work with hundreds of organizations and 6 million phone calls to about 600,000 people. We have applied the technology for agriculture most extensively, and have conducted rigorous evaluations which show the power of peer intermediaries to drive engagement with information, as well as the ability of voice technology to overcome language and literacy barriers. This will be a different use case, as the content/objective is focused on climate change, and will also involve more institutions (NGOs, government, community groups).

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

Our idea stands out because it uses an innovative, user-centered voice technology that requires only low-cost, basic phones (no smartphones necessary). Voice is powerful as a last-mile communication channel because it overcomes language and literacy barriers. Our technology is built to be intuitive and interactive, allowing it to serve as a communication link within existing but disconnected systems. The interactivity is missing in other solutions which may require a middleman, SMS technologies which are cumbersome for the illiterate, or smartphone apps which requires phones that not everyone can afford. More importantly, our model encourages technology to be the amplifier of community information and activity, rather than the driver. The information shared is built both by experts and co-designed with the community, allowing the community to maintain ownership. By keeping the user at the center and focusing on linking with offline activity, our solution promotes human-centered design principles.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

Through a pilot, we would like to test several questions. One is which type of content engages users to listen and interact - edutainment type podcasts, peer-generated information, authority/top down content? Another focus area is how successful this type of communication channel can be in shifting behavior as it relates to climate change. Finally, we’d like to understand the type of feedback users might provide when provided such a channel, and whether the direct line of communication allows them to more easily share their insights and voice.

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

Last-mile communication is difficult for several reasons. It requires an affordable, convenient, and reliable channel which everyone has access. It needs to be accessible regardless of language and literacy. It also needs to be engaging and interactive to allow for two-way communication. Many have tried to build solutions that are based solely around smartphone apps, or SMS, but communities are more comfortable using their own voice on basic phones. Voice levels the playing field in slum areas with social dynamics. Relatively, voice technology has been an unexplored field, but has the ability to provide critical innovations such as speech recognition, machine learning, and voice analytics.

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

We visited two slum areas in Ahmedabad and conducted interviews with five households. Four had a male respondent, and one had a female respondent. Each interview lasted 30 min. We shared our prototype through a story of how the mobile service would be used in different situations. We have greater clarity on the types of climate related issues that impact slum communities; they mentioned drinking water accessibility, health issues (malaria, diarrhea), infrastructure challenges such as water leakages or overheated homes. They currently get information from TV and newspapers. Respondents gave positive feedback about the idea of information on their mobile phones, and said if they can get info in advance or on demand, they can prepare accordingly. They added the offline component - having neighborhood community members gather to develop a plan - was important. They were also interested in what other areas were doing successfully. Besides basic weather and other info, they are interested in lifestyle, health, schemes, and education information. All households had a mobile phone, and it was mostly the male that kept it. They've never heard of such a mobile service before and would be interested in small group demos. Based on the feedback, we know about what types of content to emphasize, and also the importance of pairing the voice-based info with offline, in person meetings that are local to neighborhoods. The cross pollination of best practices will also likely be important.

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

Effective climate change resilience will require both individual and community action. An appropriate information and communication channel will allow for both to happen, in a way that builds on peer networks but also provides useful feedback mechanisms to interact with institutions. Given the structural inequality that slum communities already manage, a voice-based communication platform will help level the playing field. Our vision is to provide an inclusive technology which will amplify the intent to curb and manage climate change, strengthen marginalized communities, and empower individuals through the power of information and communication.

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

The platform builds on and strengthens hyperlocal networks by offering an accessible communication channel. It will allow community members to verbally share information and data about their household scenario as well as their immediate surroundings, which will be compiled to design local resilience solutions and visualizations which can help the community, experts, and planners work together to address the most critical areas. A two-way direct channel with local and existing initiatives (municipal gov, NGOs, community groups, citizen movements, schools) and beneficiaries will help drive: - Stronger community networks to promote collaboration and exchange, as well as sharing existing best practices - A better informed and engaged community, allowing for longer-term action on climate change resilience - Direct channels to local institutions and government to voice feedback and concerns - Stronger visibility into data and anecdotes to help inform policy and broader decisions

Attachments (1)

Hub and Spoke Model.pdf

Explanation of how the mobile messaging platform would work through a hub and spoke model

16 comments

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Awaaz,

Below is some feedback from our experts. We'd love to hear your responses!

Interesting idea! It would be helpful to learn more about the specific types of information you intend to share over the platform to illustrate your idea a bit more.

Photo of Awaaz.De
Team

Thanks for the feedback! Our interactive platform can share basic details about weather, pollution, mitigation strategies, case studies, and also distill more complex issues such as new policies and technologies. Some examples of information that can be shared over this voice platform:
- content related to climate change (tips, how-tos, weather, warnings, discussion, news) from local authorities, community leaders, and peers (will be curated and vetted)
- since this promotes two-way interaction, there is an opportunity for beneficiaries to share feedback, questions, or answers that will be compiled and shared with local institutions
- edutainment (engaging, informative podcast-type serials that share stories about individuals or families in their context; for example, there may be an ongoing podcast drama about a family who needs to rebuild some of their home infrastructure to address stronger monsoon rains, how they navigate that within the community, how they finance it, which materials they use, and what happens as a result)
- emergency updates and info that needs to be broadcast in real-time since basic mobile phones are ubiquitous in slum households 
- for those with smartphones (a smaller population), access to multimedia messaging which includes video and images - basically a richer form of the above, but serves to elaborate rather than replace what is available to all on the voice platform. 

Hope that provides more specificity; let us know if you'd like any more detail! We have done something similar in other sectors, and the content/information is really a joint effort between experts, peers, and a content production partner. 

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Great work going out into your community to get their feedback! I'm curious, did people feel like their current ways of getting information were inadequate? Why? 
Are you able to share with us an example of something you've done in other sectors? What have you learned from those initiatives that you will apply to this idea?

Photo of Awaaz.De
Team

@Chioma, they didn't really refer to current communication mechanisms as inadequate - because they haven't experienced other options - but they were definitely interested in the idea of getting information directly on their phone. The main reason given was that their phone is with them wherever they go, which may not be the case with the TV, radio, or newspaper. The other reason shared was to actually interact and ask questions, rather than just wait for one-way communication. Examples in other sectors:

- Government Transparency (Bihar): http://awaaz.de/blog/2013/02/streams-for-government-transparency-and-citizens-rights/

- Agriculture: https://awaaz.de/blog/2015/03/awaazde-impact-evaluation-second-working-paper-cost-effective/,
http://awaaz.de/blog/2013/01/avaaj-otalo-impact-analysis-farmers-adopting-better-practices/,
http://awaaz.de/blog/2013/02/krishi-vigyan-kendra-kvk-stream/,
http://awaaz.de/blog/2012/08/ambuja-launches-krishi-mobile/

- Education: https://awaaz.de/blog/2013/12/books-on-phone/, https://awaaz.de/blog/2013/09/mobile-phones-for-education/, http://awaaz.de/blog/2012/08/anganwadi-stream/,
http://awaaz.de/blog/2012/05/sesame-gujarat-launch/

- Blood donation: http://awaaz.de/blog/2012/06/indianblooddonors/

- Domestic violence: http://awaaz.de/blog/2012/08/kmvs-domestic-violence-awareness/



Many lessons from these use cases than can be applied here:

- Strong community partners are critical; they carry trust and are deeply embedded in the end user's world

- Information and communication through any sort of technology is still best supplemented and strengthened through offline, in person interaction

- Building in feedback loops strengthens content, which in turn strengthens user engagement levels. Feedback mechanisms include the ability to forward episodes, leave comments, and ask questions

- Incorporating peer voices is another way to encourage high user engagement

We keep learning and adapting from every application of the voice technology; we're sure we'll have to remain flexible and adaptable as we pilot for climate change messaging. 

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Thank you Awaaz.de!

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