It is one of the posts I am very pleased to write about because of two reasons. Firstly, in this post I use the Crowdsourcing Critical Success Factor Model (CCSFM) to draw some implications for a specific case of an Ushahidi implementation. Secondly and most importantly, some of the aspects I talk about in the blog are based on emails I exchanged with one of my best (and perhaps the most intellectually gifted) friend – Marut Chaudhary.
Owing to my selfish interests, I have always been keen to arouse Marut’s interest in the topic of my research just to get some of his insights. In pursuit of this goal, I sent him some links on crowdsourcing, Ushahidi and Patrick’s & Anahi’s blog to start our email exchange. Afterwards, we started a discussion on evaluating whether an Ushahidi deployment will be useful for Kashmir by asking ourselves some key questions based on the Crowdsourcing Critical Success Factor Model (CCSFM). Though this blog is focused on Kashmir I am sure that set of questions below will inform the readers regarding the thought process to follow while evaluating other crowdsourcing initiatives as well.
Key questions to discuss pre implementation:
- Does the crowd associate with the vision (or goal) of the crowdsourcing initiative?
- Will the government (or other organizations) support our initiative?
- Can we setup links with other organizations?
- Does the crowd have appropriate awareness and education level encouraging them to participate?
- Is the enabling infrastructure present?
- How can we build trust among the crowd and other organizations for our initiative?
Let us shift to the analyze Kashmir now – It has been consistently pointed out in the media that the level of awareness about political process and general education level in Kashmir is quite low (more info – click here). Also, the level of mobile penetration (‘Infrastructure’) is also a limiting parameter in Kashmir. Therefore, in Kashmir based on the CCSFM the most challenging factors would be the parameters of ‘Human Capital’ and ‘Infrastructure’. In these conditions, ensuring significant crowd participation will be quite challenging. These conditions might provide extra muscle (influencing power) to the government and the ‘External Environment’ to either restrict or improve the enabling peripheral factors to influence the crowd participation. Hence, the support of the government and external environment becomes important in such a scenario.
A few weeks back there were protests in Kashmir due to the alleged fake killing of Kashmiri youths by the Indian Army. In Kashmir, if Ushahidi has sufficient crowd participation then it might have a potentially useful application of determining the veracity of certain incidents. However, in Kashmir the availability of additional information for self correction (refer Patrick’s post on Wag the Dog Analogy) of the gathered data might be limited due to insufficient crowd participation due to lack of ‘Infrastructure’ and ‘Human Capital’. Therefore, it might happen that fraudulent information might be fed into the system allowing for possibilities for information vandalism.
Also, the concept of information vandalism can be visualized as a factor negatively affecting the ‘Linkages and Trust’ factor of CCSFM. Here, proper communication of the long term goals of the crowdsourcing initiative becomes quite important as the general perception of the crowd regarding the ‘Vision and Strategy’ of the crowdsourcing initiative is expected to play an important role in determining sufficient crowd participation. A point worth considering here is that Indian societies are closely knit and extra importance is given to the word of mouth communication. The public relation campaign about the initiative must take this fact into consideration.
As Chris Blow points out in one his posts that the actual Ushahidi deployment in Kashmir (as is the case almost everywhere) might just be 10 percent of the job. To make it successful it is critical that we develop an appropriate strategy ensuring cooperation and communication between all stakeholders (crowd, implementers, government). Also, in these scenarios the factor of the long term ‘Vision and Strategy’ becomes very important. So, the deployment must be carefully thought and planned out.
On the contrary, if an Ushahidi deployment is carried out in a hasty manner in a place like Kashmir (or elsewhere) where the essential factors of ‘Infrastructure’ and ‘Human Capital’ are not sufficiently present the probability of information vandalism will be higher. It might lead to reduction in ‘Linkages and Trust’ associated with the initiative which might significantly hamper the success of initiative. Therefore, think before you act.