An app we've been using internally for a long time goes public!
Recently, I began thinking about the data we were collecting and of ways to make it more accessible. Because there was a real time-input (people calling the service), I decided I would try to offer a real-time feed of the questions coming in from people who have no computers, sometimes even no phones. How can they not have phones you ask? Well, in our current pilot with Grameen-Uganda, Question Box works by sending people called Community Knowledge Workers into the field to aggregate questions from rural communities. The CKW then dials a call center (located at Appfrica Labs) with operators on standby waiting to look up the answers. As the operators enter a search (complete with the demographic info of the question asker) the application is populated with those queries, as they occur in real-time. If you’ve ever been to Google’s Mountain View campus, they have a monitor displaying search terms as they are being entered by billions of people around the world, this is the same general concept applied to people who normally live their lives far beyond reach of the web.
The application is called World Wants to Know or WW2K. It’s an exercise in data visualization and offers insight as to the types of information these populations are interested in. Before you ask what the answers are, we do give them to the callers but to protect their identities as well as the interests of our pilot partners, that information (unfortunately) cannot be shared. Over the next few weeks I hope to add many new visualizations to the site based on the data we’re collecting in India and Uganda.