Txteagle is an interactive data collection platform that is incredibly innovative in its techniques. They received funding to set up an application for nurses in rural Kenya to text in blood supply levels at local hospitals. At first, the application was very successful, but within a few weeks, participation declined to close to nothing. To counteract the decrease in engagement, Nathan Eagle, the program’s founder, created an incentive system. Safaricom, the local Kenyan mobile operator, gave Eagle access to their mobile billing system. This allowed him to reward participation in his application with minutes of mobile airtime. So, for each text they sent containing data about blood supply levels at local hospitals, nurses received one minute of airtime. This incredibly simple incentive system was wildly successful—almost immediately, all of the nurses began participating again!
This incentive program is applicable to a plethora of other data collection applications. Eagle eventually integrated his system with Safaricom’s partners, so that 220 mobile operators worldwide were able to use his billing and compensation platform. To put this in perspective, Safaricom and its many partners have access to 2.1 billion active numbers in 80 different countries. Consumers need only to complete an opt-in process to begin sending information in exchange for mobile minutes.
More recently, Txteagle has begun working with the Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Reduction. This network, consisting of 300 nonprofit organizations worldwide, focuses on increasing the resilience of affected people to disasters along with minimizing the impact of the disasters themselves. Txteagle’s platform is used to send survey questions to vulnerable communities in order to improve disaster preparedness. To initiate communication, a “blanket SMS” invitation is sent out to a community; if a person opts-in, he or she is given the option to complete a survey via SMS text or online – either way, airtime compensation is still received.
I think that this is an awesome idea. By incentivizing inputs, Txteagle is ensuring a much greater level of participation, thus enabling its partners to more effectively give aid to those in need. Txteagle also works with the operators to provide incentives for them as well. Because both the operators and the end users are being compensated for their participation, this program has a great chance of long-term sustainability. It can be applied to so many aspects of development beyond just disaster relief, so future growth seems inevitable.