Crowd sourcing opinions is a fad these days. Twitter and facebook analysis engines, and startups based on the above business models are mushrooming in every corner of the world. But what if the people who matter are NOT actually using either of these?? You dont agree?? Think of villages in India who still visit a central school or citizen center to awe the PC, and internet once a week. Closer to home, think of the slums and many other not so well to do masses in the cities, who have twitter and facebook for the sake of social networking as the last thing on their mind, as they go off to sleep worried about the roof on their heads, or the food for tomorrow.
Not that these segments of the society don't have an opinion on things that matter to them. They do, and perhaps they have very strong opinions. The point is, how to incentivize and technically facilitate recording of these opinions as media that can be analysed. We believe it might be one of the biggest challenges when we try to apply our work in the Cockpit Project to emerging markets.
However, hungry for various ideas, I landed almost by chance on the news about this "Humanitarian of the year" from MIT's Technology review. Kobia built a solution few years back to help crowdsourcing information about the flash riots which happened in Kenya. He worked hard to make it a nice usable interface which can be explored visually through maps. Commendable was the fact that he went ahead and made a platform out of his solution, so that it could be used not only for tracking kenyan riots, but just about any "crowdsourcable" information which has a geographical dimension to it. Thus I can gather data about societal health, civic conditions, political views, etc. etc. just by ensuring I have the right categories for people to express their opinion into. The core innovation was to make this platform for aggregation of information and visualization. However, I dont think the part of getting the opinions is still solved. I have seen few implementations of this platform which have failed to kick off. This is where the next logical innovation should be in. It is no news that the solution will be based on mobile devices, and I personally bet on the imminent ubiquity of touch interface mobile devices thanks to Android :).(There is already an android mobile application for upload this crowd-sourced information). But I am not yet sure how the real masses react to this, specially in the emerging world. May be the voice based mobile solutions are a better interface. But of course the fidelity of speech recognition is something we all still crave a lot for.
That said, if you can create the right buzz around your implementation of the platform, and your user base is urban and not mobile shy, this platform has a huge potential of becoming successful. The greatest part is ..YOU can download it today from their open source organization and in a matter of few days have it deployed in production mode. All the best for your effort with this. I will perhaps try to get some students excited and work with me on a social application of this platform. Will surely share the updates here.