Daily Archive for September 2nd, 2010

Helping Communities Respond to a Crisis: Konbit

We all remember the devastation of the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year MIT mobilized its resources to respond to the disaster and communicate the challenges associated with the earthquake. MIT students Aaron Zinman and Greg Elliott responded by creating a way for communities to rebuild themselves after a crisis by indexing the skillsets of local residents, allowing NGOs to find and employ them. That idea became known as Konbit, winner of an IDEAS2010 award. We asked Aaron and Greg a few questions about Konbit’s progress:

It has been nearly four months since we saw you at the IDEAS competition. How have you used this summer to propel Konbit forward?

We have been beta testing Konbit with a community center in Miami. That has gone well, and we are shipping our servers to Haiti now.

You planned on launching Konbit this summer. Have you found NGOs and Haitians eager to use Konbit? What have been the challenges, successes and effects of Konbit so far?

To connect with NGOs is a bit of chicken & egg. They want to meet with us once we’re launched, but we want to have jobs for people when they call in. We have enlisted one so far, but essentially need to get further on the ground before we can get the jobs.

Having worked out the agreement we did with Digicel is probably our biggest win, in addition to the support of the wonderful center in Miami (Konbit for Haiti is the name). They have various connections in Haiti and will get Bob Lemoine, a well known radio announcer, to re-record our voice prompts for us. This will allow a trusted voice to answer the phone. Prof. Michel DeGraff previously translated and recorded the prompts, which have done well in our beta tests, but we constantly get feedback about trust issues in Haiti. This has been suggested as a possible way to help mitigate this issue.

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