The Lesson of Haiti

Posted on Mon, Jan 25, 2010 – 06:56 am at MobileHealthWatch | mHealthNews.com

The crisis in Haiti has served as an opportunity to bring mobile applications to the fore. Though a tragic incident, I am encouraged when I see evidence of transparent global collaboration (the “secret sauce” behind the open source movement) empowered by what I call the digitally, distributed enterprise-enabled collaborative results-only work environment (thanks to Cali Ressler, Jody Thompson and Peter Yim for all the appropriate descriptors). When extended to new challenging endeavors, this great global grid, in a phrase, will put an end to “geo-lock,” which means that information intensive tasks which can be completed by subject matter experts wherever they happen to live will be.

You may be aware of the several African projects built on the citizen journalism model, which provide news, to a large extent, due to the availability of relatively inexpensive mobile phones. Ushahidi, “a website that was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008” launched the 4636 SMS Shortcode for Reporting initiative with “the help of dozens of people from multiple organizations”. Subscribers on the DigiCel network in Haiti can now report emergency info and location by sending text messages free of charge to 4636. The project makes it possible for eyewitnesses to report developments on the ground.

Meanwhile, Celent, a Boston-based research and advisory firm, had meant their announcement of the launch of a new service dedicated to the Asia Pacific region to be their big impact PR recently. Instead, Easy Does It, a post by their Red Gillen, turned out to be more prescient. Of the point “for mobile payments to work anytime soon, they have to be easy,” he wrote, “the first and perhaps most meaningful illustration of this…has been the phenomenon of text-based payments for the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. By the Friday before his post, he reported, that $11 million in donations had been received via text donations, an amount which came out to about 366,000 mobile payment transactions per day, assuming $10 per transaction¬† (the folks at the Mobile Giving Foundation can advise if your causes are looking to incorporate this donor channel).