26 January 2009

Mobile Metrix ~ Census Count of the "Invisibles"

It's fantastic to read in the Monitor about How to count the "invisibles": A new kind of census, by Gregory Lamb, which spotlights Mobile Metrix, a social venture founded by Echoing Green Fellow Melanie Edwards to count the 1 billion people living off the grid...
"Mobile Metrix hires local youths to go into neighborhoods carrying PDAs, hand-held devices capable of storing and transmitting data as well as audio. Their work often paints a clearer picture of who lives there than government estimates or infrequent paper surveys that can be inaccurate or years out of date. The PDAs allow information to be gathered more accurately and shared more quickly than with pencil and paper. But the key Mobile Metrix innovation in early pilot programs in Brazil has been employing young people from the neighborhood, male and female, to conduct the surveys. These "mobile agents" must be recommended by a prominent community member, such as a church or nonprofit organization leader. They are trained in how to conduct a survey and how to use their PDA. A typical survey might ask 60 to 80 questions, such as "How many people live in the home?" and "What is their level of education?" The mobile agents are 16 to 25 years old. "You see these youths transformed," Edwards says. "That tends to be the age where they could be going into prostitution or the drug gangs, so we’re hoping this is an alternative to that. In several cases, we’ve had gang members come up and want to become involved."
The ICT-enabled leveraging of local community workers is a blossoming theme, for TB-DOTS work, for ClickDiagnostics tele-diagnoses, and a whole array of social, financial, and other services. This is a truly essential innovation!

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