Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Jobs via SMS to post-war communities in Sri Lanka

'I have received 50 SMS messages. Each SMS gives me a new hope every day! I am sure now I have a bigger chance to have a better job!' - Yogeswaran was already employed in a local NGO. But he wants to find a better job with higher payment and closer to his home.

Post-war community

Yogeswaran is one of 1050 job seekers registered to the JobHub, the ICT based job service explicitly serving a unique population of young unemployed (& under-employed) in Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Unique because these youth were the victims of a 30 year long ethnic conflict; they were born in a war environment, grew through refugee camps and battle grounds, some of them were ex-combatants still going through rehabilitation programmes. Under the post-war reconstruction efforts, since 2009, they are being given vocational skills and educational opportunities by the state and the development actors such as CARE International.
'None of them like commuting to distant places for job opportunities, leaving their families behind'. Career Guidance Officer (S. Veerasuthakaran) at Zonal Education Office (Kilinochchi), explained about insecurity and mental scars of the ethnic conflict that are still occupied in their small minds.

SMS & Mobile phone - the magic

Nevertheless, every body has a mobile phone. Apart from communication, for many it is a means of entertainment; listening to music, learning about news and gossip. Given they are very basic hand sets, SMS is the best technology to work with. Though weak mobile signals fade away when they reach remote villages, some times 20 km away from the town, sooner they reach a signal zone, phone reconnects, message lands in the phone.

New interviews - more jobs

Using 'Frontline SMS' as the platform, Sarvodaya-Fusion has launched the project as a pilot trial only 4 months ago (April, 2014) with the support of CARE International Sri Lanka. Since then project has gained an unexpected traction. Over 7000 text messages generated 100 new interviews to the local youth. 'I have applied to the job when I saw the SMS text in my friends phone, and it is amazing that now I am employed'. Kadiragamar Kaleimagan is one of the 20 employed youth who have received SMS messages just from their friends in the local village. (See the trends in the illustration).

Employers are excited

'If I post the vacancy in a local newspaper, I will get about 100 applications. Have to wait about 2 - 3 weeks, and then short listing, calling and too much trouble to find the right individual. But with JobHub I got four applicants within days after posting the job and I have recruited one. It is very convenient for me' - Thamil was the founder and manager of the leading guest house (Solaivanam) in the area. Many SME owners like Thamil has contributed to the 240 job vacancies posted over last three months. In a battered area which is just emerging from rubble to experience early life of modern market-economics, 240 jobs is a big number.

JobHub is implemented by Sarvodaya-Fusion with the sponsorship of CARE International in Sri Lanka.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Doing business with Apps at BOP (Bottom of the Pyramid)

Apps are magical even at BOP
'Huh - Google Map is magical', 'I found a new route to the market', the BOP users took only hours to master the Apps, when low cost Huawei Andriod Tabs were introduced as a shared device, at Android Hubs bySarvodaya-Fusion. More importantly it was their house wives who has mastered the Apps first.
Local language Apps
'Bhasha Puwath'; the local language news app created by then university student, (who has subsequently set up a startup company Bhasha Lanka Pvt Ltd), has been more popular than Facebook, among the 10 Android Hubs. The promise of local app developers becoming local App market champions seems plausible.
Local eco-system approach
All these were enabled by the eco-system centric approach made by Etisalat (third biggest telco) in Sri Lanka. In a context where global app markets (Google Play) and online payment gateways (PayPal) are malfunctional in Sri Lanka, Etisalat as a third party created an exclusive platform for the 21mn population of emerging economy at US$ 5000 GDP per capita.
Sarvodaya Fusion executed Android Hubs under the sponsorship of Etisalat, where the focus was to engage rural BOP market with digital technologies. Over 11,000 people from 10 rural communities have been Educated and Engaged to Interact with Digital technologies, fulfilling the mission of e-Empowerment!

Friday, 4 July 2014

SmartPhone is the telecentre in 2014

In mid 1990s, when we had introduced telecentres, 'the rural poor communities - got excited to touch the PCs' for the first time in their life. But, telecentres failed to attract them again and again, as PCs were still complicated to their simple lives defined by illiteracy, low income (below $2 / day) and low infrastructure (unstable electricity etc.). Then came mobile phone and now we are with Android Tabs; 'huh - Google Map is great' - they can now connect with the technology. The device is simple enough to understand, intuitive enough to operate - no need to push too many buttons. It is just a touch (of the screen icon) and it unfolds...something that can connect with their simple imagination'

With over 10 rural communities Sarvodaya-Fusion has experimented introducing Android devices as shared devices to leverage the on-going development programs such as micro-finance. This video captures a story how single SmartPhone could transform the lives of one village community in Sri Lanka.


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