Friday, November 30, 2007

Rural BPO : A successful implementation by an inspired engineer

I was reading up a bit on the rural BPOs online after Santosh's talk the other day. I came across this interesting and inspiring article about a 23-year old engineer's endeavours and success in the rural BPO field in India. She put to use the same idea put forth by Santosh , about having locals working close to where they live. This way they earn money and do not have to leave home and other responsibilities.
The reviews of the rural workers' efforts have been summed up in the article by on of the firm's using this service as:
"The workers in the rural areas are more committed and hardworking. So, their quality is very good."
, which is definitely encouraging.
It is truly admirable how some people want to leave their luxuries in order to make other people lives better and also highlight how rural areas are potential powerhouses waiting to be explored .

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How ICT can help reduce TB

There is an ICT project underway in south africa to help reduce TB. Details are as follows;

Dr. David Green's Compliance Service uses the Short Message Service (SMS) to alert tuberculosis (TB) patients to take their medication. The initiative has led to a significant increase in the recovery rate of patients and could lead to savings for healthcare authorities.

Funding or financial model: Commercially driven. A pilot project has been sponsored by the City Council of Cape Town.

Background: The population of Cape Town is divided along race and class lines. White people generally have access to middle and high-income jobs, good municipal services, and private healthcare, and they can afford comfortable housing. Coloured , and especially black citizens of Cape Town generally have low paid jobs or are unemployed, live in informal settlements where housing is often substandard, cannot rely on good municipal services, and have to use the overburdened public healthcare system. Cape Town's Mediterranean winters are cold and wet, and this poses an additional health hazard for people living in informal settlements. Large areas of these settlements are built below the waterline and are flooded during the winter months. Due to this combination of factors, poor black people are more prone to contracting TB. Unemployment countrywide is estimated at 41.5% and the GDP per capita is estimated at USD $8,500. (Global Insight, an international research company)

How ICT is used to overcome the problem: Evidence suggests that TB patients often do not take their medication simply because they forget. So, Dr. Green uses SMS (Short Messaging Service) -- text message service that enables short messages of up to 160 characters to be transmitted between cell phones -- to alert patients to take their medication.

Healthcare professional were skeptical whether the uptake of cell phone technology was high enough to justify the project. However, Dr. Green found that over 50% of people in the Cape Peninsula had access to cell phones. At the clinic where the pilot study was conducted, 71% of TB patients had access to a cell phone.

Dr. Green enters the names of TB patients onto a database. Every half an hour his computer server reads the database and sends personalised messages to the patients, reminding them to take their medication. The technology that he uses to send out the messages is extremely low-cost and robust: an open source software operating system, web server, mail transport agent, applications, and a database. Currently Dr. Green charges the City of Cape Town R11.80 per patient per month to send out SMS messages.

Initially the SMS message sent to patients read: "Take your Rifafour now." When patients complained about the boring message, Dr. Green sent them a variety of alerts, including jokes and lifestyle tips with the result that he now has as database of over 800 messages that he changes on a daily basis. Of the 138 patients involved in the pilot, there was only one treatment failure.

Health Stats

Two hundred years ago, tuberculosis was a feared killer. One hundred years ago, people with tuberculosis were placed in sanitariums in order to prevent TB from spreading from one person to another. With the birth of anibiotics, TB was controlled and for a time all but eliminated. But with the emergence of HIV over the last 25 years, TB has returned and must be dealt with. In some parts of the world, HIV and tuberculosis are at epidemic proportions. Here are the most current tuberculosis statistics.

  • Tuberculosis Cases
    • 2000: 16,377
    • 2001: 15,989
    • 2002: 15,075
    • 2003: 14,874
    • 2004: 14,502
    • 2005: 14,080
    • 2006: 13,779

  • Tuberculosis Deaths
    • 2000: 776
    • 2001: 764
    • 2002: 802
    • 2003: 711
    • 2004: 657
    • 2005: 246

  • Tuberculosis Cases According to Race (2006)
    • Hispanic: 4,066
    • American Indian / Alaska Native: 167
    • Asian: 3,298
    • African American: 3,737
    • Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander: 56
    • White: 2,403
    • Multiple Races: 35
    • Unknown / Missing Race: 17

  • Tuberculosis Cases According to Age (2006)
    • 0 - 14 years: 807
    • 15 - 24 years: 1,540
    • 25 - 44 years: 4,702
    • 45 - 64 years: 4,053
    • 65 years and older: 2,676
    • unknown age: 1

Thursday, November 22, 2007

BabaJob - A social network with a Social cause - Will it work?

Web2.0 is continuously proving it self as the most helpful creation this century. With Wikipedia being the new bible of knowledge and linkedIn being the hottest place to snap a job, while Twitter a micro blogging platform being used more as the 1st mean of informing people during a disaster. In its most unfortunate state this evolutionary steps are only proving beneficial for only those people who have access to a computer, an internet and continuous supply of electricity.

In most developing nations, like India where the Sensex is jumping 1000 point in a matter of weeks, India is in the 'nascent stage' where computer literacy is concerned. The percent of literacy as compared to illiteracy is by it self a subject of question. Having said that it must be noted that the Participation of India is 19% of the total number of people on orkut, making it the second highest national community on Orkut( source )

Babajob, that is co founded by Sean Blagsvedt, claims to be a "linkedIn" for Poor people. In short a social networking for not only job seekers but employers of jobs that cannot be sort out on LinkedIn, or orkut etc. The parameter of the jobs listed on this site would range from a cook, to a nanny, a house keeper, painter, office helper, driver etc. Kamla Bhatt a renowned Podcaster in India did the interview below with the co founder.

Reasons why BabaJob will help get Jobs in India.

1. The hook this social networking websites gives is the incentive of money. The person who plays connector gets paid a sum of 100/- RPs. This is reason enough for many people in India to play connector. A sum of 100 rupees ( approx 2 $) is sufficient for 3 meals in India. Cyber café owners could also make act as a connector by helping other not so computer savvy people to get on the web to get a job.

2. NGO's will be amongst those organizations that will make use utmost of the services of this website. NGO's whose cater to the needs of the unemployed would look at this website as one more opportunity to help the poor. The NGO would not only have resources that could help/assist the main target audience of this website to get on to the web, but also lend credibility.

3. Many Metropolitan cities in India, like other developing countries, have people who have moved into the city from rural or semi urban areas. Finding helpers like cooks, house cleaners, nannies would be a tedious task for them. Hence such a website and service would prove to be helpful.

Reasons why BabaJob will not be so helpful.

1. Babajob is trying to use its synergy with it's proper social network Babalife, to make Babajob popular. India is already flooded with social networking websites like Yaari, Collegecampus, Fropper, Jhoom, Minglebox, and Reliance funded BigAdda which is doing heavy offline advertising. In the above interview Sean says that he would like to compete with Orkut, which is highly unlikely considering the other players in the market that have either been funded heavily (Minglebox got funded for 7 Million by Sequoia Capital) or are backed by big corporate like Google.

2. Trust is a huge issue, especially in India. Following the Adnan Patrawala case in India, where a 16 year boy was killed after carrying an online friendship on Orkut, offline, People are very skeptical of the online world.

3. Most of the people online are youth, who do not worry about a driver, cleaner, nanny etc. These options would appeal to the primary decision maker in the house – The Mother. The percent of Internet Savvy Mothers in India is very minimal and limited to the metropolitan cities in India.

Though Babajob is a brilliant fusion of heart and technology, the obstacles that are faced by the website outrun the 100 rupee hook. While most of India still lies in the rural sector where basic electric amenities are not met, hence the scope of the website would only be limited to the semi rural and urban areas. With the rise of Literacy, credibility of social networks – this indeed would be a great connect and much wanted Bridge between the seeking employer and wanting employee.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Using Asterisk

Today the founders of Asterisk gave a lecture at ITP. One of the projects that are build on Asterisk is "Inveneo", a non-profit social enterprise that brings internet access to rural african areas. Computers get charged with a bike, that produces power, etc... please watch the video on their website for more info.
Their products include:

Ultra low-power computers and servers
Long distance wireless (WiFi) Local Area Networking (LAN) gear
VoIP telephony software and integrated hardware
Free and Open source operating systems for servers and desktops

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Any Comments?

I found this rather interesting article that uses Brazil as a case study for analyzing the progress made by developing countries with regards to advanced informational infrastructure.