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THREAD - a way to thread together information to take appropriate action

Thread is a platform that pieces together information from different places and connects this to the appropriate people and organizations to take action. By leveraging existing projects and technologies, Thread, connects them together.

Photo of T. Annie Nguyen
22 13

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Leverage Asynchronous Modes of Communication in Remote Areas
It is important to not only access information, but to make sure it is received and communicated. Getting real-time information may not always be feasible because of lack of technology infrastructure as well as costs in remote areas. In addition, many people do not own their own personal device even as the price of cellular phones continue to drop and be affordable to make real-time calls. Through the offline/online model, information can be accessed and uploaded daily and this can meet the needs of people in remote areas who are just need basic digital connection. People who are connecting on the Thread platform can report and track information offline and online as well.

Since access to information remote areas in countries can be difficult, this concept would combine a low-cost digital communication that was developed by MIT Media Lab researchers, called Dak Net. Dak Net works by transmitting data through a portage digital connectivity device that is connected on a vehicle such as a bus, motorcycle or even bike. Throughout the remote village and roads are WIFI stations that can sync the wireless connection and sync up the information to both upload and download information. These stations will be placed along roads with shorter distances to connect to WiFi more frequently as the vehicle with the device passes through within range of the WiFi station. It acts as a storage information until it is able to connect and send information over WiFi. Dak Net has been success in remote areas of Southeast Asia. Another online/offline technology that has been successful in remote areas is a platform called COCO developed by DigitalGreen. They work with partner organizations in remote villages teaching farming techniques via video. Information is collected about adoption rates on the practice, successes and views of the video. Partners record information on the database offline and when they are able to connect, information is uploaded to COCO. Data analytics are posted on their website and anyone can see where work is being done from the map view to the individual person.

Partnering with World Bicycle Relief is a way to make sure that WiFi is continuously being synced via portable device in villages without a lot of initial investment for transportation. World Bicycle Relief not only provides people in rural areas with bicycles, but trains nominated community members to become self-sustaining bike repair mechanics. The portable devices can be assembled along with the bikes. Time and distance to commute is greatly decreased and digital connectivity is increased.

Capture Local Awareness and Knowledge via Platform: How it Works
For those who live and work in remote areas may have a feeling that something is about to happen, but may not have a proper way to flag or pass on this knowledge either to the right people. These people can be in villages as well as doctors, nurses, lawyers and teachers who may be aware of these signs early on. Learning from UN Global Pulse’s Hunchworks, local leaders on the ground and people from organizations and research institutions would be connected through an online platform. Once someone on the ground has wind of something that may or is about to happen, they can start the trigger by posting this information online. This information is then able to be evaluated then proper action can be taken. It is important to know when and where the activity was taken place.

People who have access to the platform must be trusted members of their communities and be verified. Witnesses must feel comfortable in sharing this information to the the platform. This information can be posted and evaluated without being tied back to an individual, but as a general community member from a the reported location.

In the signed in view, verified users can see comments, verifications and questions with the posts on the latest activities. People can search latest activities via Map or by Region and Country. Members of Thread can generate reports from information collected (Tweets, SMS Texts, photos, videos and messages) into a downloadable format that organizes the information via timeline. This report can be sent to journalists, leaders, those who have authority or on the ground to take action.

In unsigned in view, people will be still able to see publicly posted activities and the map. They cannot see comments and who verified who on the platform. They can download generated reports and post anonymously as a community member that requires them to state the general area that they are posting about and add more content to the platform about an activity. They won't be able to participate in dialogue since verification is required.

The evaluation of the post would be highlighted by how many verified users verified this information. Based on the number of verifications, the evaluation is combined to create an average score. The score would inform people that there is enough backing and evidence to move forward with action and generate a report. Those who are reviewers would be verified and associated with an organization such as research, NGO, partnering organization.


Awareness & Partnerships
By partnering with local NGOs and other local partnerships that work with people in rural and remote communities, they can be informed and trained about Thread platform. Enabler cards can also spread awareness during local gatherings that people can take home and share with their families about steps they can take to use Thread, but also without technology: /open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/enabler-cards/

Working with Digital Green, can help spread the message. They train people on the ground video and editing techniques to produce quality training videos. They also work along community members to advocate and translate to the broader community. Partnering with them would get the information and reporting on Thread to be a useful tool.

Financial Funding
Tech companies such as Microsoft, Google and IBM’s development teams are already capturing and analyzing data for better user safety such as money laundering. This type of information capture could be extended to reporting atrocities and other accounts that need attention.

Last month, The Foreign Secretary announced funds for survivors of rape in war. Foreign Secretary, William Hague announced recently that UK will fund Physicians for Human Rights located in eastern DRC, to capture and document evidence of sexual violence. This money will be used to provide medical equipment and training for doctors, lawyers and police officers on the ground:  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-announces-funds-for-survivors-of-rape-in-war

How does your idea gather AND verify information? How does your idea keep those who use it safe?

Since access to information remote areas in countries can be difficult, this concept would combine a low-cost digital communication that was developed by MIT Media Lab researchers, called Dak Net. Dak Net works by transmitting data through a portage digital connectivity device that is connected on a vehicle such as a bus, motorcycle or even bike. Throughout the remote village and roads are stations that can sync the wireless connection and sync up the information to both upload and download information.
The connection would be secured network that we would have to make sure in remote areas.

Once someone on the ground has wind of something that may or is about to happen, they can start the trigger by posting this information online through Thread. This information is then able to be evaluated then proper action can be taken. It is important to know when and where the activity was taken place. People who have access to the platform must be trusted members of their communities. People who are on the network can be alerted and see where it has taken place through platform and open source code like iWitness.

How might your idea be designed to scale and spread to help as many people as possible?

This idea can be prototyped anywhere and start with a community to see how reporting information is being handled and delivered. By starting in areas where Dak Net and World Bicycle Relief have already done work, we can connect these two organizations together.

Digital Green (http://www.digitalgreen.org/) is also a great organization that has network of partners on the ground using videos to improve quality of life and agriculture, which are posted through the offline/online network. Leveraging their connection in remote areas is also a good way to test and scale.

How might your idea make use of exisiting technology? Has your idea been tried in a different or related context?

iWitness, a free web-based software tool to help people find and capture experiences around the world by time and place via photos, videos and messages via social media aggregated in one place. This tool was created by Adaptive Path and funded by the Knight News Foundation. Although it is only web-base, there are opportunities to leverage the open source information. The source code for iWitness: https://github.com/adaptivepath/iWitness

This tool is a great overview of what is happening and capturing all types of media. People could upload their messages, videos and photos on to this platform. The information can be reviewed by partners, who see the incident and then take action. Action can by taken by connecting local partnering organizations near the reported incident or news to agencies such as the US AID and Humanity United. This information would already be on the platform since the initial report was the first signal or trigger and seen as tree diagram. Taken an example from a 9-1-1 call center, system and people are given proper instructions for each step or question that leads to an answer. This system would be the same and learn over time how frequently this may occur or who the best agency is that will respond quickly.

Another open source platform is called Atavist, which "lets anyone seamlessly integrate text, audio, video, and interactive elements into ebooks, digital magazines, and other publications, and then effortlessly publish into an iPad or iPhone app, for Kindle and Nook e-readers, and for Web browsers (in HTML5). We designed it to be the ultimate creation platform for the digital, mobile age." This open platform can also be leveraged that allows any type of content be uploaded and searchable: https://www.atavist.com/our-story/
They focus on empowering people to tell their story.

How could you begin prototyping this idea in a simple way to begin testing and refining it? Who would use your idea and/or who is using it now? Is your idea technically easy medium or hard to implement?

Working with the UN Global Pulse team on what they have started is a good way to test and refine as well as partner with other organizations. Humanitarian aid organizations such as US AID would be an ideal tester and user.

I would like to think the idea would be easy to implement, however, I believe it will take some time to talk with partners and set up the connections as well as build the platform Thread.

How is your idea adapted for conditions in hard-to-access areas, such as lack of internet and mobile access? Can users adopt it without much behavior change?

Leverage Asynchronous Modes of Communication in Remote Areas:

It is important to not only access information, but to make sure it is received and communicated. Getting real-time information may not always be feasible because of lack of technology infrastructure as well as costs in remote areas. In addition, many people do not own their own personal device even as the price of cellular phones continue to drop and be affordable to make real-time calls. Through the offline/online model, information can be accessed and uploaded daily and this can meet the needs of people in remote areas who are just need basic digital connection. People who are connecting on a platform can report and track information offline and online as well.

During Sandy Hurricane, the cell phone networks didn't hold up. In addition, the carriers are not required to tell the public where and which networks affect people, in the US. It may be true internationally and cell phones may not be as reliable during an emergency. Internet access and even on the idea from the article of "Cells on Wheels" aka "COWS" can move to place to place to provide access in remote areas. Here's the article from NPR posted April 29: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/04/29/179243218/after-sandy-questions-linger-over-cellphone-reliability

People may already be aware of computer use so there's not much behavior change with the syncing. The behavior change would happen with the platform in how they would learn to be aware of the tool, use it and verify information to be able to take action. A diagram tree, similar to a 9-1-1 call center is a good example of a process during emergencies.
Christophe's process for SMS call can also be adapted for the web platform as well: http://www.openideo.com/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/how-to-get-relevant-information-and-verify-it-with-low-cost-technology/gallery/relevant-and-verified-infomation-v1-billen-290313-1.pdf/

Evaluation results

15 evaluations so far

1. How scalable would this idea be across regions and cultures?

Looks like it’d be easy to spread across multiple regions and cultures - 26.7%

This idea could scale but it might need further iteration to make it widely relevant - 73.3%

Seems that this idea would best be suited for a single region/population - 0%

2. Would a lot of resources be required to create a pilot for this idea? (think time, capacity, money, etc)

This idea looks easy to pilot with minimal resources being invested - 0%

Feels like this idea could take a moderate amount of resources to pilot - 73.3%

Seems like piloting this idea would take a lot of resources - 26.7%

3. How suitable is this idea for various challenges on the ground such as lack of internet or mobile access?

Yep, it feels like it could work easily beyond internet or mobile access - 26.7%

Not so sure – it looks like it would require online or mobile connectivity - 20%

This idea definitely seems to rely on internet or mobile access - 53.3%

4. Could this idea put users or others at risk?

Nope, it looks like everyone would be safe - 26.7%

There are some potential concerns, but these could be addressed with further iteration - 46.7%

I can imagine some people being put at risk with this idea - 26.7%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

This idea rocked my world - 40%

I liked it but preferred others - 46.7%

It didn't get me overly excited - 13.3%

22 comments

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Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congrats on being shortlisted for our Atrocity Prevention Challenge, T. Annie!

Our challenge sponsors loved how your idea deploys simple mobile upload/download mechanisms to enable messaging. One area to continue developing more throughly is how users can easily learn about and access the system? Also how does information move between users (others along the system or abroad), who would be monitoring and is there an element of curation?

Read more on how to get involved with prototyping and refinement: http://bit.ly/oi_refine And here's some tips on prototyping specifically for this challenge: http://bit.ly/endatrocity-proto Ready, steady, refine!

Photo of T. Annie
Team

Thanks for the feedback. Will definitely continue refining the concept!

Photo of Michael
Team

Just a quick note, to follow through on the OpenIDEO message above. Building around Dak Net is a fascinating idea, but I agree that some attention should be paid to curation and monitoring as well - how do you separate the signal from the noise when it comes to warnings about potential conflict or violence?

Michael Kleinman
Humanity United

Photo of Meena
Team

Great question Michael – and thanks for chiming in here. T. Annie – there might be some learnings from Christophe's concept: http://www.openideo.com/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/how-to-get-relevant-information-and-verify-it-with-low-cost-technology/ – and noting that he works for the UN in DR Congo, you may want to seek his feedback here.

Photo of Christophe
Team

I used to work for the UN. Check out my updated CV here: http://nl.linkedin.com/in/christophebillen
Nice day to all.

Photo of T. Annie
Team

Thanks for the questions and feedback. I'm currently reading up on Christophe's ideas and seeing how to connect what he already has proposed about monitoring and verification. Lots of great thought into the concept!

Photo of T. Annie
Team

Hi Michael,

Thanks for asking the question: "How do you separate the signal from the noise when it comes to warnings about potential conflict or violence?"

In response, I thought more about it more and started to prototype what that would look like.

The Thread platform is a place that collects and posts information/content. It aggregates information, especially similar incidents, which then is escalated to the top of Latest Activities Feed. and has an associated alert.

Verified members of Thread platform, and broader community can be notified of incidents that meet a certain criteria such as severity of incident, number of similar incidents in the same area and number of people who have verified the incident, which requires action.

In cases where there is not a high number of similar incidents, an incident can still be alerted/flagged with certain keywords. The keywords will trigger the incident that needs to be verified and reviewed. An example would be if one person is a witness, their message with keywords will move up to the top of the Latest Activities Feed that needs to be followed up.

These are just initial thoughts. Please let me know what you think. I'll be posting more soon.

Thanks!
Annie
 

Photo of Michael
Team

Thanks!

Photo of Meena
Team

Great updates and new visualisations, Annie!

Photo of Karoline
Team

Hi you guys. Just wanted to pass on some information about the opportunity to apply for small grants through humanity united. They've got a pool designed to facilitate innovation and scale in humanitarian and emergency assistance worldwide. The small grants given would range up to £20,000 (or approx. US$32,000). More info about the fund and application process here http://bit.ly/17T9Nzf It's looks like a great opportunity to bring some of the ideas in here to life. Unfortunately, I'm still in school, and unable to take my idea 'People's Radio' further or apply for grants, but anyone from the community who might want to are super welcome to do so. Annie, if you're in a similar position, you might want to reach out to members of your virtual team and see if they're interested in taking the idea further. Exciting!
Cheers, Karoline

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