Sona - information within reach [Update 12/22 - Final question & reponses to expert Feedback]
Provide a “go to” call-based, public information service along with curated health, public safety, and education modules.
This image shows the modes of the "Sona" informational service.
This image shows stakeholders in the urban environment and their sphere of impact to the slum community.
EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
The Internet is changing how we access and consume information; from DIY tutorials to learning new languages, we can learn from experts within a moments notice. However, this model leaves behind the most vulnerable population, poor communities who don’t have access to the Internet.
We are proposing to deliver a call-based service aimed at urban slum dwellers with cellular devices. The service will have two modes: active and passive. The “active” mode is when a user actively seeks out the information by calling in; this active mode will cover information about public services, making it available to all. The “passive” mode of the service will include two different sub-services:
1. Emergency alert broadcasting
2. Curated voice-based informationals that are built, in partnership with educators and local NGOs, to disseminate information that slum dwellers will benefit from.
The curated information will be a progression of core knowledge, mainly engineering (structures and materials), health (preventive, afflicted), and environmental science, presented periodically the way one might consume education material from a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in a developed country.
As the service grows we will be able to see trends on information accessed by the public. This data will be shared with urban decision makers to supplement their strategies affecting city residents and influence public spending.
The main beneficiaries are slum dwellers in Dhaka, Bangladesh who can access information they need to adapt to climate change and population growth. NGOs working in Dhaka will be able to reach out to more people with educational information through our service. Urban decision makers will have access to data relaying salient needs of slum dwellers, so they can better focus their efforts. Better demographic data will help drive better public services and smarter funding decisions.
HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?
Our idea presents a solution to connect a rapidly growing city together in a time when its ecosystem is quickly changing due to environmental and industrial changes. The mobile information service will create awareness of these pressures, as well as equip those in the city with the knowledge to prepare for imminent impacts to people’s health and home. Together with the message broadcast system and the DIY education material, people can begin to take control of their own life and future.
Yes, for two or more years
I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF
We're a team of a designer, a researcher and a business consultant from different industries - tech to non-profit. One of our team members, Tazin Shadid, is the founder and CEO of a non profit based in Bangladesh working in slums of Dhaka - http://spreeha.org/
IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?
This will be a new idea for the team and our partner, Spreeha. Currently, Spreeha community mobilizers go door-to-door in slum areas to provide important health services. Our idea will help the organization scale beyond certain locales by mobilizing additional critical services, in order to help the slum dwellers become more resilient to the effects of climate change. Through handset communication, we can solve one of Spreeha's major issues, which is that they can only reach ~20,000 people (~5,000 families) when they estimate ~80,000 families live in the area that they service. Scaling beyond the slums that Spreeha currently works in will create a larger impact on the slum population across Dhaka.
HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?
First and foremost, we will provide a wide range of call-based information from healthcare to emergency alerts, to cite a few examples. Secondly, there's a component of both on-demand and broadcast service, reducing the barrier to entry for people to access this public information. Most importantly, our biggest advantage is that our partner, Spreeha, has built a strong and trusting relationship with these communities for the last eight years. Our idea will be to augment Spreeha's existing services, which people love and depend on, thereby reducing the time to implement this project.
There are a couple of similar initiatives in Dhaka. Another organization has a mobile-based service for pregnant women which they can subscribe to for weekly tips through text messages. Their model is a paid service, but the cost is minimal. However, the adoption and usage of this service is low at this time. Again, another initiative similar to ours is a health information service provided by mobile operators and these are too expensive for slum dwellers.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?
1. What policies exist that allow for non-government institutions to broadcast city-wide messages for emergencies?
2. What services exist to set up a toll-free number and server/data storage system in Dhaka? What redundancy methods are appropriate for this model and geographic area?
3. What partners exist for translation services of our education content?
4. What topics interest people the most for piloting our content, specifically for the curated education material?
5. What would motivate someone to seek out this education material: money, cost, time, and/or accessibility/travel?
WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?
A high-tech solution doesn't match the reality of the context in Dhaka, and a more holistic approach will be needed to mobilize the residents.
The traditional approach to education has been framed in the context of a physical classroom. In the slums of Dhaka, physical classrooms and the support around education cannot handle the growth rate of this population.
Additionally, demographic data around the population is difficult to obtain in Dhaka, preventing the city's providers from accurately estimating demands and budget to support them. We hope our service will support data collection.
HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?
The community is in bigger need of a single source of information than we had previously anticipated. Today people are seeking out services in physical spaces, which have a fixed capacity for handling requests on a daily basis. We’ll need to get the highest priority content out there as soon as possible to alleviate some of these critical needs.
For those calling into report events, we will need to ensure that our system respects the anonymity of those callers. Our data collection needs to maintain the utmost anonymity while at the same time capturing enough data points to serve up to partner organizations who can better handle these specific concerns.
Picture of Spreeha's training center where women receive vocational training today.
Picture from one of the adolescent girls club meeting that Spreeha facilitates where an epidemiology researcher from Canada shared her career stories with the girls. The visiting speaker series was designed to help the girls broaden their horizon and to think of diverse career paths.
WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?
Inspire slum dwellers to educate themselves and their community on topics of climate change, environmental damage, and globalization affecting health and wellness.
Global warming will have an impact on their region and the people will need to be mobilized with the right skills to prepare, adapt, and overcome those obstacles. Flooding will continue to plague this area and while a small portion of the population can react to the effects of flooding, that will not be enough to sustain their lifestyles in the long run. Our hope is to empower slum communities with decisions they make everyday, but most importantly with their future ones.
How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?
People will be able to access information they need through Sona that is normally provided by disparate sources across the city; often these information sources are outside the proximity of a slum dweller’s locale. The connection Sona can create may allow for NGO’s, and other non profits, to reach a wider audience with their own curated content and services, thus spreading a positive impact across the city.
Spreeha, which provides health services, can only handle a limited number of people given the doctor's’ time and the capacity of their health center. Through Sona, doctors can make preventive information available to their customers on the mobile service as well as to others who might not necessarily fall within their typical service area. We can gather data about what kind of information is being accessed and requested based on demographics which can hopefully lead to more efficient budgetary spending by both NGOs and government agencies to improve services for slum dwellers.