Monday, March 10, 2014

Get the crowd to save the world! and a reflection on crowd-sourcing in the developing world

I recently discovered that one of my task in my job was to get the geo-wiki for livestock working. A geo-wiki is a platform that allows crowd-sourcing your map. Crowd-sourcing? It means asking people out there to validate your map.
To validate the global land use map, Steffen from IIASA and his team have developed a game, named cropland capture, that shows satellite images and photos to the player who must decide if he sees cropland or not. Land-use maps are usually based on satellite images and use an algorithm to decide what the land use is. So there is always a pretty high chance of an error. Verifying a global land use map is mission impossible for one person, but if the whole world contribute we might get a pretty accurate map quite fast! The game has been a big success, a big parts of the world could be validated.

I had my big doubt about how crowd sourcing could be an option for the developing world. Most of the areas i worked it in Ethiopia had no mobile phone network, so no internet, no electricity so no option to recharge a phone, and a smartphone was an item for the fancy high society. However Kenya is different, it is the place where m-pesa, payment via sms has been invented (a functionality that is yet to be implemented for the Swiss mobile phone networks). Many people have mobile phone coverage, and the leading local telecom provider is providing the already very famous (at least for those who know me) Huawei smart phone that gives you the whole android functionality for about 60 usd. So the problem of crowd-sourcing in Kenya is not a technological one, but a motivational one : how can we convince farmers to log on an app and pay for the internet connection in order to report to us about their number of cows, the way the hold them or how they manage manure? The idea is to offer something to the farmers for free for which they usually have to pay for, for example the weather forecast. A farmer can consult the official weather forecast for free if he reports to us about some of this farm practices. An idea that we are going to test in Kenya this year. Not later this week end, i was introduced to the techie community in Nairobi, the young freaks setting new frontiers of how new technologies can improve the lives in the developing worlds... a crowd we definitely will want to involve into the project.

Also the team is working on a phone app which geo-references your landscape pictures from your fields or trips. These pictures are then used in the game to validate the land-use map and give us a better picture of what is really happening on the ground.

This is definitely an amazingly fascinating part of my job which will take some time until it is fully set up! In the meantime wanna help us to save the world and validate maps? play crop capture here!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Catherine,
    what about the farmer can manage to know weather forecast by some other means and not interested?
    are you still working in ILRI? am planning to do some mapping in Nairobi soon.yr effort and plan with techie community in Nairobi can be something i can tap in.. let me know.