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Showing posts with label social change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social change. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Can you select all (CTRL+A) to be a Bangladeshi adult?

Yes surprise surprise! We have an adult only post for the first time on this blog. Please make sure you are more than 18 years old and take no offence, personally, emotionally, religiously, spiritually, socially by reading the content that follows. If you think you may be disturbed in any way, shape or form please discontinue reading and close this window now. (But I know chances are very high you will keep on reading). The text of this post is intentionally blanked out to respect our social values and preference for clandestinity, shyness, hypocrisy - whatever suits you. Assuming you are an adult and know how to select all text, only then you will be able to read on.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why Mahfuz Anam's job is easy?

In a bid to encourage me to learn better English, my late grandfather used to urge me to read the Daily Star on a regular basis from when I was as young as 15. So having read the leading English daily of Bangladesh for an ardent 17 years, I have now realised that the job of the editor Mr. Mahfuz Anam has been very easy – almost tantamount to a walk in the park (Ramna, Chandrima etc.). A few hypotheses to support my assumptions are here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Digital Bangladesh - Get the crowd involved through crowdmaps

Initiatives related with Digital Bangladesh will be truly successful when UNDP in Bangladesh and the Access to Information Programme at the Prime Minister’s Office start relying more on the ‘crowd’ for feedback and service improvement requests across a variety of services on offer such as information, market price, human rights etc. To this extent, I share my inclination towards ‘crowdmaps’ – which is open source, integrated with a range of technology channels such as phone, Twitter, emails, SMS, web, which is free or at minimal cost, customisable, supports a variety of languages and truly inclusive by involving the ultimate beneficiaries in the full value chain process.

‘Crowdmap’ is based on the ‘ushahidi’ platform, the Kenya based technology for development start up which was first used during the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007. Since then, it has been used increasingly after the earthquakes in Haiti, New Zealand, Japan, during the crisis in Egypt, Libya etc. Other than being used after natural calamities and man made crisis, ‘crowdmaps’ – rather ‘mapmania’ is going to be one of the key buzzwords for the year 2011.

For example, take the case of a crowdmap set up for reporting and tracking violence against women say in Dhaka city. Imagine the power it would give to ordinary Dhaka women to report incidents immediately to alert police or social agencies via the crowdmap. It could be a quick call against the shortcode for the crowdmap, or a quick SMS or for even further details, they can always login to internet to report in detail what exactly happened. It would become clearer which areas in the city are more prone to incidents against women thus urging authorities to promptly take measures to prevent such events from occurring in future. Please note that crowdmap doesn’t require internet for interacting with its users – simple mobile or landlines can also be integrated with crowdmap via another useful technology useful for NGOs – frontlineSMS. Have a look at a crowdmap to track violence against women in Egypt.

I won’t go into much detail how exactly frontlineSMS or crowdmap work, you can check the links and innovate a service for your locality anywhere in Bangladesh. The key point I am trying to drive home is effective initiatives for Digital Bangladesh will need to come out of closed door seminars and workshops in government offices or posh hotels and from reliance on proprietary software or platforms. Rather than hiring expensive foreign consultants or taking alms from foreign donors on a never-ending basis to devise technology driven solutions for social change, we should explore open source and mostly free technologies such as crowdmaps to include ordinary citizens in various aspects of services which the Government or other social development agencies are mandated to deliver. At present I am involved in a crowdmap initiative for Bangladesh focusing on economic, cultural and social rights of citizens. Power to the 'crowd'.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Social 999 and Information Dam - How to deal with social emergencies with technology? - Part 1

Today - a post not directly related to businesses or branding as such, something more related rather with my work with social networks, technology,development, human rights - social change in general. Inspired by the latest conversations in the field, especially by the pioneering thoughts of Clay Shirky, I had been thinking along the lines of a concept which I term as 'social 999' and a related concept of 'information dams' and how, I wonder, we could use these to precipitate social change. These are very embryonic thoughts and will require further research, ideas and investigation in days to come.The key question is how would it be if we could use social networking platforms as some sort of a social 999 or a social 911 in which case we could use a combination of existing social media channels where the look-alikes of typical real life emergencies such as 'policing, medical and fire-fighting' could be dealt with by the community members themselves?

If you look at how the emergency numbers and the services that are provided across countries by calling the usually three digit emergency number, you will realise that there are several characteristics related to the emergencies. Firstly they concern with loss, damage or deterioration of properties, health or even life of an individual or a community as a whole. Imagine what happens when a fire breaks out in a block of buildings and there are women, children and elderly trapped inside. Think about a theft or a crime occurring which effect a household or an individual which require police to address the case immediately. In the same breathe, imagine when the paramedics rush with their ambulance to attend to the deteriorating health situation of any unfortunate ailing person in pain. All these circumstances include the threat to health, property or law and order which can influence individuals and communities alike.

Secondly there is this aspect of reaction speed. Imagine what would happen if the fire brigade arrives to a burning block of flats after say 2-3 hours when the whole infrastructure might get reduced to ashes. Similarly what's the point if the paramedics arrive at the scene to attend a heart patient in distress after an hour or so? How quickly the emergency service providers can react is one of the key critical success factors that make 999 or 911 effective and useful for the community.

Thirdly it's important that perfectly skilled professionals are standing by to respond to our emergency calls. How terrible it would be that a bunch of amateurs wearing uniforms would show up with water buckets to extinguish a fire? Even worse if they hesitate to plunge into the fire risking their own lives to save others. The brave-hearts fighting with fire are expected to be brave and well trained. Similarly you will not want amateurs to attend to a patient who have just had a heart attack.

Finally there is this issue of abuse of the system. Imagine the amount of false alarms the emergency services in real life must have to deal with on a daily basis. This can range from old widows calling 999 to help look for their missing cats to panic struck health freak who calls for paramedics after mild chest burns which may be due to trapped wind. In majority of the cases I guess emergency service providers have no other way but to respond and attend to such calls, incase the issues are life threatening, even if they end up with a pure time wasting experience.

Now lets take this opportunity to replace these emergencies with some kind of a social emergency, violations of human rights of some sort against any individual or a community and imagine the services- as actions against those violations. How could we conceptualise a ‘social 999’ like scenario where the user groups, communities of best practices, groups, tribes, tightly or loosely connected networks – whatever you call it, will use social networks to deal with a social emergency, a man made crisis of some nature, which might require urgent addressing by all involved to tackle the challenge. Lets look into some more details of social 999 and the concept of ‘information dam’ in the next release.