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Crowdsourcing work through mobiles

Intriguing idea reported by the Economist about breaking down work into small chunks and getting people to send it back using their mobiles. The polling feature developed for LIRNEasia by Respere could fit into this easily, though Eagle may have done that in his application.

Mr Eagle hopes txteagle will do its bit by mobile “crowdsourcing”—breaking down jobs into small tasks and sending them to lots of individuals. These jobs often involve local knowledge and range from things like checking what street signs say in rural Sudan for a satellite-navigation service to translating words into a Kenyan dialect for companies trying to spread their marketing. A woman living in rural Brazil or India may have limited access to work, adds Mr Eagle, “but she can still use her mobile phone to collect local price and product data or even complete market-research surveys.” Payments are transferred to a user’s phone by a mobile money service, such as the M-PESA system run by Safaricom in Africa, or by providing additional calling credit.

Working with over 220 mobile operators, txteagle is able to reach 2 billion subscribers in 80 countries. It already has the largest contract-labour force in Kenya and new ways of using it are being found all the time. Recently a large media firm asked Mr Eagle for help in monitoring its television commercials across Africa. The company was concerned that, although it had paid for broadcasting rights, its ads could be replaced with others by local television companies. So txteagle pays locals to watch and then text notes about which ads are shown. “I would never think of that myself,” says Mr Eagle. Which is why he is not sure just how big all these small text jobs could become.

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