In South Africa, national unemployment stands at 24%– and that number is even higher in many areas outside of major cities. Mobenzi, a new tool created by South African company Clyral, is a project to target unemployed workers to allow them to work over their mobile phones. “Mobenzi agents” use mobile phones to complete mobile tasks that are difficult for computers to process. The program concentrated on two main areas: sentiment analysis and improving SMS-to-computer compatability.
Mobenzi agents receive a stream of texts and tweets about a topic and then follow a checklist on their phone that categorizes the information; i.e., is the message positive or negative and if it is negative, noting what was the problem, and how the problem can be resolved.
The second task used Mobenzi agents to convert text speak into computer-compatible forms. Agents would receive a text [for example this from the Mobenzi blog: “im looking 4 brick laying work in Dbn next week. John”], and then transform the information into a computer-ready format [example translation of previous text: “Name: John. City: Durban. Job: Bricklayer. Available: 23-11-2009”].
Mobenzi is formally slated to launch in April. The venture is funded by the Shared Growth Challenge Fund. For now, the program is still just ramping up.
I believe there are a number of concerns about the sustainability of this project, including the payment to the agents as well as the accuracy of their sentiment analysis. However, with proper training this project could help lower unemployment since only a phone is needed to do the job.
To learn more about Mobenzi, click here.