17 March 2009

Morning in Bishkek

The sun is unexpectedly shining. This could bode well for the jetlag battle.
Shockingly, no raised eyebrows at any of the checkpoints about our hardware.
Ran into the first wave of the crew at the Istanbul airport. They found a pretty swank place to camp out for the long, long layover. Well done!
Sparse flight to Bishkek meant we all pounced on our own rows once the doors closed. A much needed nap.
Now sort of awake. Odina arrived from Tashkent. Local folks come by in an hour or so for us to figure out how to assemble the team.
So, what we're doing:
1. Testing a mobile SMS directory that allows people to list and rate businesses, and define shared directories with friends and families. Usability tests of a flash mockup and a working SMS model (with luck; that's coming with the next crew).
2. Testing hardware/software designed to create a grassroots information infrastructure for users of public transportation. A GPS/SMS module that lives on a shared transportation vehicle, runs a prediction algorithm, and sends SMS messages to a server. A user then sends an SMS to the same server asking when their next bus will arrive. Potentially handy when there is a lack of posted bus schedules; especially potentially handy for inter-city transportation in areas with shared, informal transport options (incl for farmers). Paper and prototype being presented at ICTD2009.
3. Trying to figure out why, when it comes to Internet, if you build it users don't necessarily come. Internet growth over the years of our project has not exactly flatlined, but growth is slow and glacial. Availability has increased, but not necessarily usage. We're kind of curious about this.

More later.


carolyn said...

Very interesting! I especially like the public transit schedule app. I would use that all the time... but I suspect that to increase usage you need more than just backend infrastructure... are internet services affordable? are computers even affordable? are cell plans? Or, if it's not a question of money, perhaps the apps aren't relevant to the population... maybe they already know the bus schedules? I don't know them because I don't use them, but people who've been riding the same bus for decades probably already have it down...

Still, a very interesting question, how to drive usage once the basic needs are taken care of.

bek said...

Carolyn -- we're driving this with SMS only rather than internet precisely because people aren't using internet at very high rates or internet on phones. Bus routes: known to habitual users, and route info available online, but not schedules or info on delays, etc.
Real $ sustainability issues in current prototype, but that's one of the things we're hoping to explore both on the social and business sides. By the time I see you in Boston I should know more!