Calling All In Transit

Most of us who work in the world of open innovation and crowd sourcing are familiar with leveraging the power of the collective to come up with new consumer product ideas or solutions to scientific or technical challenges.  But how often do we see organizations using the crowd to save the world (and why don’t we see it more often)?

Recently, Humanity United and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) completed an open innovation project called the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention.  According to a Huffington Post blog article (from which some of the information in this post was taken), 1.5 billion people are living in countries affected by violent conflict.  Injury, rape, and murder are daily realities for these people, and often these people have no access to the Internet or a mobile phone network.  Often perpetrators prevent journalists and humanitarian aid organizations from entering these areas.

This is a critical international problem with which most people have little or no experience dealing.  We’re so used to gathering and sharing information that it’s hard to imagine what it feels like to be cut off from the rest of the world, especially when connectivity means a way of alerting international organizations or even neighboring communities of human rights abuses and mass atrocities.

Karoline Kirchhübel submitted an idea to the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention, and her idea was chosen as one of the “winners”.  Her concept, People’s Radio, is a radio channel made up of spoken tweets, allowing people with no Internet access to call a free number and record a short voice message, which is then played on their local radio. People’s Radio serves to connect robust and traditional communication systems such as landlines and radios to modern platforms like the Internet.

Karoline believes (and I agree) that you don’t need be an expert to try and tackle large-scale problems.  The wisdom of the crowd empowers communities to find solutions to all types of challenges.  I look forward to seeing Karoline’s potentially world-changing idea implemented in affected countries around the world.

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