Innovation That Matters

Computer tasks for workers in the developing world

Nonprofit & Social Cause

Earlier this year we covered txteagle, a service that aims to fight unemployment in the developing world by enabling mobile phone subscribers there to complete quick jobs via SMS. Operating on much the same principle, Samasource is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that connects workers in the developing world with computer-based tasks. Samasource has partnered with 18 locally owned small businesses, nonprofit training centers and rural data centers in Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Ghana and Pakistan. Such service partners are first carefully screened, both for social and economic impact and for their ability to deliver good work. Next, Samasource provides those organizations with free business training, using live sample projects, web-based tools and site visits. Then, Samasource markets the services of its partners to paying clients around the world for tasks such as data entry and digitization, web development, image and site moderation, application testing, video and audio services, project management, research assistance, virtual assistance and tasks via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. So far, clients including Benetech, GoodGuide and Stanford University Library have provided USD 160,000 in paying projects for more than 500 individuals, with the effect of raising the average income of those people from less than USD 75 per month to USD 300 or more. Through a partnership with CARE International, meanwhile, Samasource is training workers at a refugee camp in Kenya with the help of an iPhone application—codeveloped with CrowdFlower—that lets volunteers in the developed world verify their work. Samasource itself, meanwhile, covers its operating costs by charging its clients a modest service fee. Samasource seeks both clients in need of computer-based help and volunteers to verify refugees’ accuracy via the iPhone application. It’s also exploring the possibility of bringing its services to disadvantaged regions of the U.S. in fields such as quality assurance, web design and geographic information systems. One to partner with or hire for help with your next computer-based project…? (Related: Solar-powered cellphone kiosks for Ugandan women.) Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann



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