SEWA- Spread the word!
SEWA app is a community notice board on which residents can share local news with or without an internet connection.
EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
How do I get my kids admitted in school?
When will the water tanker arrive tomorrow?
What documents do I need to get a Ration card?
Where is the Government conducting a free eye camp?
These are just some of the questions that a slum dweller faces on a daily basis. Yet there is no system/ network in place to share this information across the community. Hence, most residents are unable to take advantage of various government schemes and NGO initiatives that exist to support them.
Smartphones are quickly becoming ubiquitous in the Indian context due to their rapidly declining prices. Cheap android phones are available for as low as $40 in the markets of Delhi. Hence, the time has arrived to harness their potential to assist and alleviate the conditions of the urban poor.
The SEWA app seeks to bridge this communicate divide, by creating a platform on which residents of a small community can interact with each other. Sewa means ' to serve' in Hindi. The content is categorized as per the needs of its users: water, electricity, shelter, health, jobs, etc...
As Mobile data services are very expensive in India, we can explore the 'Off the Grid' technology used by the popular chatting app, Fire Chat. The app uses Bluetooth to connect to nearby phones that also have the app installed. If lots of people have the app, they form a "distributed" or "decentralized" network. As slums are densely populated, the strength of the network will be very high.
SEWA is an open, inclusive platform meant to knit the community into one unit. Any resident of the locality can post on this 'notice board' under one of those categories. His post will be sent to a locally appointed administrator who will moderate the content before publishing on the platform. Then, all users of the app in that area will get notifications regarding the post. Those users who have not upgraded to smartphones, can subscribe to the App notifications via SMS.
HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?
Communication is a valuable tool in the fight against poverty and climate change. A platform like SEWA, will enable and empower users to help themselves. It will nurture community spirit and kindle unity in a fragmented social fabric. By catering to needs like food, water, shelter, jobs, etc..., it focuses on the key issues that people in urban slums face. It is consciously designed to be simple and frugal, so that it doesn't not intimidate its users.
SEWA can be used to educate the masses about an abstract concept like global warming and help contextualize it to their day to day affairs. It can be used to increase awareness about, rain water harvesting, reducing water wastage, solar cookers, etc... It will allow the government, NGOs and local residents to spread the word, regarding any initiative, issue that effects the community as a whole.
Yes, for two or more years
I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for less than one year
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF
I am an Industrial Designer and Architect based in New Delhi. I am currently working in the Design Research & Strategy team of LG Electronics. In my research, I have tried to explore how Architecture and Planning can be used as tools to reduce crimes in Delhi.
IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?
The SEWA app is a recent idea, which was borne out of my design researches with urban poor in India. I currently work in the Design team of LG Electronics, where we research, strategize and design new product solutions for the Indian market. Although my forte lies in architecture and industrial design, I felt that a mobile based service would be a an apt solution for the problems we seek to address in this challenge. At this stage, I am building a digital prototype which the users can navigate to give feedback on the UI/ UX experience .
HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?
In my research, I was able to identify atleast two organizations who are doing pioneering work in building inclusive mobile solutions: Awaaz.De and AtmaGo. Both of them are harnessing mobile technology solutions to reach out to users cutting across language and literacy barriers.
The key USPs and differentiators of the SEWA app are:
• Noticeboard platform which encourages users to share information relevant to the community. Categories like, health, education, jobs, etc... help structure the notifications and make them more relevant to user needs. The content is owned, operated and consumed by the community
• Offline connectivity: Mobile data costs in India are still very expensive. By using the simple technology (Bluetooth) behind the popular neworking app, FireChat, we can make the SEWA app function without the internet. This 'Free' connectivity will enable more people to use the app.
• Inclusive functionality: Even those people who do not have smartphones can subscribe to this app using SMS notifications. This flexibility will allow all types of users to take benefit from the service.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?
Some of the questions I would like to address through further research:
• How comfortable people are in downloading and using mobile apps? The app should not intimidate users by its technology or features.
• What is the extent of mobile internet penetration in slums? Even though this service can work for people without smart phones and mobile data connections, it would still be interesting to note how mobile internet is currently being consumed.
• What are the various media which users want to use for reaching out to the community ( audio, video, photos, text)? Each format has its own set of limitations and opportunities, with respect to the proble
WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?
Before making this concept, I tried to understand the limitations of existing services with similar functionalities. The reasons these problems have not been solved yet are:
•Most neworking apps are dependent on phone having an internet connection. Mobile internet costs are still prohibitive for many slum dwellers. The SEWA app can function by building 'off the grid network' using Bluetooth ( Firechat technology). Thus, the 'free usage' makes it more appealing to users.
•Most mobile apps function on smartphones. A large number of people are yet to upgrade to such internet enabled phones. By allowing SEWA to additionally function using SMS, we make it more inclusive.
HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?
In the Beneficiary feedback phase, I got an opportunity to interact with various stakeholders within the target community. I approached 10 respondents in the Trilokpuri area of New Delhi, with a questionnaire and digital mock up of the SEWA app on my smart phone. The topics I sought to cover through this exercise were:
•Problems that users face on a daily basis
•Types of information, notifications that users need.
•Types of mobile phones used & access to mobile internet.
•Mobile apps that they currently use to network, seek news, etc...
•Explore SEWA app mockup screens on a mobile phone.
•Give feedback on the functionality, User Experience, etc...
I received valuable feedback from these interviews. Some of the key improvements points that were suggested are:
•Adding content via audio/ video/ pictures: Many residents are uncomfortable with typing and wanted an in-app functionality of adding pictures, videos or audio messages.
•Local languages: In the Indian context, the app should function in the local language of the state apart from the popular Hindi and English.
•Classified ads: Shop keepers felt that such a medium would be a great way to advertise their services to the local community. The money raised could be used to make the app financially sustainable.
•Human face: Users wanted a community leader to be a moderator on the app. Users can reach out to him, in case of any problems or support needed.
User Experience Map
User Experience Map
Voice of User
Voice of User
WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?
SEWA is an initiative meant to empower slum dwellers to help themselves. With this app, I intend on creating a communication platform where neighbors can raise issues which are relevant to them. The app should be owned, operated and used by the slum dwellers. It would go a long way in cultivating a community bond between residents.
The next steps for realizing this concept would be:
• Incorporate suggestions received in the Beneficiary feedback phase.
• Make a digital prototype of the app, which target users can experience for feedback.
• Reach out to Open Garden ( makers of Firechat) to understand the technology behind building a network over Bluetooth.