Haiti earthquake, a group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's MediaLab have rolled out Konbit, an expansive work database for those effected by the devastation, usable by those with computers and without, by those literate and illiterate. Aaron Zinman, a grad student who, along with Greg Elliott, developed the site, explained the opportunity.In time for the one-year anniversary of the destructive
"Normally (non-governmental organizations) organizations import foreign labor into Haiti due to the difficulty of finding local talent -- a problem we are trying to combat."
A Resume for the Developing World
Here's how it works.
- A displaced, unemployed Haitian calls the toll-free number (courtesy of Digicel): 5656 in Haiti, or +509 37031042 from abroad
- Creole (Haitian French) speakers, in Haiti and abroad, call in and translate those messages into English and other languages
- NGOs search the database for local laborers who can fill their open positions
Those phoning in are prompted to tell stories that illustrate their experiences. The prompts have been recorded by Haitian radio personality Bob Lemoine and the tool is being advertised with PSAs on Haitian radio, said Zinman.
"We have structured the interaction to help people tell what we think are relevant stories from their life that translate into employable skills. We first start by asking the basics--name, gender, education level (to proxy for literacy), can you work at night, and are you physically strong and healthy. Then we ask about their experiences with a wide range of skills. We frame the skill questions with examples to cue them and disambiguate. We ask about first-aid, construction, languages, child care, laundry, sewing, cleaning, repair, and transportation."
For those approaching the site, either as a job seeker, translator or NGO, it is simple and straightforward, as well as graphically arresting. For the NGOs, it helps them minimize labor costs, also a benefit for donors. For those effected by a crisis, not only does it help the NGO serving them to become more efficient, but it gives them extra access to the means to keep themselves and their family safe and fed, work.
The Chicken and the Egg
Konbit spent a good portion of last year approaching NGOs with the help of consultant Angela Dean at D&A Development Solutions.
"We spoke to the UN Development Program, Clinton Foundation, Partners-In-Health, Peace Dividend Trust, at the State Department, and more. Everyone was the same--they thought the project sounded great and to let them know when it was deployed. We wanted more concrete feedback on how to cater the system to their interests, but they were so overloaded already and they didn't know if this was pure vaporware considering the timing. So we discovered the answer to the chicken & egg is egg."
Now, after beta-testing the system in Miami, the egg has hatched in Haiti.
To hear some of the phoned-in audio resumes, click here and select Haitian Creole as the language. If you speak it, here's where you can also contribute to the translation effort.
The project is open source and the code is available on Konbit's Bitbucket page. The hope is that this process can be rolled out to each new crisis requiring in-country labor.
First, however, the chick will have to grow into a hen and lay eggs of its own. To facilitate that, the Konbit folks intend to approach the NGOs who were skeptical the first time out again in January. If the NGOs see the power of the system, it may wind up materially adding to the list of things a competent NGO can do when they've got the people they're supposed to be serving helping them do so.