Found in 3 comments on Hacker News
GuiA · 2017-02-17 · Original thread
I thoroughly enjoyed Geek Heresy by Kentaro Toyama, which is precisely about taking that trope apart. The book goes over a number of case studies about technocrats thinking their purely technological solutions would "make the world a better place", and how they failed. It also goes over examples where no/low tech approaches succeeded. It's a quick, recommended read.

I think technology has a key role (as a tool) to play in reducing poverty. Obviously poverty is a complex problem and technology is jut one tool to be used as part of solutions. As Kentaro Toyama wrote in his excellent book, "Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology" [1], technology is an amplifier of intent.

This is why we started engageSPARK (a not-for-profit social enterprise), aka "Twilio for Non-Techies", where we're building technology tools to help Non Profits/NGOs, Governments, and Civil Society Organizations globally amplify their work to engage the poor in ways that haven't been feasible for them before. These organizations already have money, intent, and people on the ground, but they don't have access to good technology tools to be more effective in their work.

Because most of the poor now have access to a mobile phone (note that most do not have smartphones nor regular access to the Internet), Voice Calls (pre-recorded in local languages) and two-way SMS are key mediums - which many people forget.

Some examples using interactive Voice & two-way SMS to engage the poor: 1) Education using Soap Operas delivered via phone calls: recipients get a phone call, answer, and hear a soap opera dialogue. A quiz at the end is used to reinforce the lesson and measure comprehension. In a study for 20,000 people to encourage them to save money, savings rates increased by 106%.

2) Information Retrieval: people dial into a phone number (or do a free Missed Call to get a call back) and press keys to retrieve information "Press 1 to learn about preventing Ebola, Press 2 to hear symptoms, etc".

3) Surveys: collect information from people quickly via SMS or Voice - "Press 1-5 to rate the training you received last week. Press 1 if you feel positive about finding a job, or 2 if you don't. Press the number of times your family had a meal last week".

Imagine the use cases in Health, Agriculture, Finance, Governance, Disaster Preparedness & Response to help the poor live healthier lives, grow better crops, increase income, have a voice in government, be more resilient to disasters, etc. - all by engaging them more effectively by leveraging technology.


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