Notes from the Field

Brendan Cassidy is interning with Open Mind - Question Box in Pune, India this summer.  He is a third-year Computer Science and Education student from Carleton College in Northfield, MN. This is his journal entry:

Over the past four weeks, I have been working for Question Box in Pune. The challenge we immediately faced was to provide Lend A Hand India (LAHI) with three Question Boxes. They hope to use boxes for remote education—students can listen to a lesson from a teacher and then respond to questions or ask questions of their own. Future LAHI-specific incarnations of the Question Box may feature radio technology, allowing one instructor to deliver a lesson to multiple sites simultaneously, so that many students can receive a quality education.

To prepare the boxes for LAHI, we first had to take down boxes that weren't in use, and traveling to those locations was a great experience. I didn't have an opportunity to see them in use, but I definitely got a better handle on what the project is about by seeing the communities in which the boxes were being used. Next, we constructed some simple circuits to go inside of the boxes.

Previously, a user had to hold a button for a while before a call was made, but with the changes we made, a user now only has to press the button for a moment. This will make the boxes easier to use, which will hopefully enable more people to use them. Finally, we applied new stickers and coats of paint. The new boxes are looking great!


We are now working to create comprehensive manuals on the Question Box, covering everything from assembly to maintenance. I'm excited for the opportunity to work with people from the community to make sure the manuals are clear and accessible, and I'm looking forward to making something that might help Question Box spread all over the world.


Two new Question Boxes!

Recently, Open Mind inaugurated two new Question Boxes in Pune, at Maher homes for women and children, run by Sister Lucy. Amit Mandora, our MBA student intern from Europe Asia Business School, narrates: "It was a very good event. We had a lot of kids.... Everybody was very excited about the Question box and was eager to ask questions. A successful event."

The new question boxes set up at Vadu and Wadgaonsheri were inaugurated by the former principal of Wadia College, Pune in presence of the Open Mind team. With the inauguration of these two boxes, Open Mind takes a step forward in its mission of making access to information easier for more people.



CEO Rose Shuman Made TEDIndia Fellow!

Rose Shuman has just been named a TED Fellow. Joining the ranks of a hundred distinguished innovators, Rose will be attending TEDIndia in November. Jon Gosier, Open Mind - Question Box CTO, is also a TED Fellow.

Rose will make an announcement about an exciting new Question Box development at TEDIndia. Watch this space!


NEW YORK, Sept. 14, 2009 — Organizers of the TED Conference will bring 103 TEDIndia Fellows to Mysore, India, to participate in TEDIndia, the first-ever TED in Asia. TEDIndia, “The Future Beckons,” will take place Nov. 4-7, 2009, on the high-tech campus of Infosys Technologies Ltd.

The TEDIndia Fellows are a diverse group of men and women, representing not only India, Pakistan and Bangladesh but also Indonesia, Canada, Tajikistan, the United States, China, Nigeria and Oman. TEDIndia Fellows include engineers, environmental scientists and pollution experts, human-rights activists, musicians, athletes and filmmakers. One is a female Olympic-class sailor. One runs an innovative rickshaw business. One is a robotics developer. All are committed to the spread of great ideas.

“As the world's influence moves to the East, the TEDIndia Fellows program is proud to showcase the work of 103 visionaries born or working in South Asia, especially in India, but also in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and the rest of the world,” says Tom Rielly, TED Fellows Director and TED Community Director.

Mumbai Lions Club Gives Warm Reception

Open Mind - Question Box Founder and CEO Rose Shuman visited the Mumbai offices of Lion Ashok Mehta, Past President of Lions Clubs International.

In attendance were current and former Mumbai Lions Clubs Governors Jaysinh Babla, Shirish Jhaveri, Anil Goradia, Shirish Chiniwala, and Sudarshan Nair. They presented a very nice commemorative Lions Club clock to Rose.

The group had warm discussions about Lions Clubs and Open Mind - Question Box collaboration. We look forward to moving forward together to bring live information to the underserved.

Question Box Saves Piglets! & Swine Flu in Loni

Swine Flu is a concern to Question Box users in both India and Uganda. Today in Loni, India, we got our first swine flu question, asking about its symptoms.  There has been a major outbreak of swine flu in Pune/Mumbai, and Pune has been proclaimed an epidemic affected region.  Schools/colleges/public gatherings have been closed till 17 August

CKW Paul Nkoola in the field

Recently in Uganda, we saved a young man's livelihood.  Grameen Foundation reports:

Impact from AppLab Question Box

Cost saving realized through improved decision making

CKW: Paul Nkoola

Anecdote: A young man in Paul’s village saved all his earnings to invest in piglets.  When people learned about the spread of swine flu, they advised him to kill his pigs.  He was extremely concerned and did not want to kill them but did not know what he should do.  He knew that Paul was offering a service that allowed farmers to ask any question to an expert hotline and asked Paul for advice.  Paul called AppLab Question Box and learned that swine flu is not spread through pigs and that the disease had not been detected in Uganda. The young man was relieved and continued rearing his pigs.  By increasing his knowledge, the client averted a mistake that would have severely damaged his future prospects.

Question Box in new town

The Question Box has just made its debut in Manjiri, a town outside of Pune. Question Box engineers Satish and Sachin (on left, Sachin with mask) are shown with the grocery story proprietor.

Satish's sister has just joined as a community awareness worker, and she will be circulating amongst the population to educate them on the Question Box.

We immediately got questions on poisonous snakes and the price of Toor Dahl.

See and download the full gallery on posterous