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Summary:

Two San Francisco-based startups — Samasource and CrowdFlower — today released a free iPhone application in the iTunes App Store called Give Work that lets you spend a few seconds of your time helping Kenyan refugees earn money, and in turn, improve their quality of life. […]

give work 1Two San Francisco-based startups — Samasource and CrowdFlower — today released a free iPhone application in the iTunes App Store called Give Work that lets you spend a few seconds of your time helping Kenyan refugees earn money, and in turn, improve their quality of life. An fbFund startup, Samasource is a non-profit that provides tech work for women, youth and refugees in countries such as Kenya and Pakistan. CrowdFlower, meanwhile, pairs businesses with pools of workers from such regions who can complete simple tasks that a computer can’t, such as removing spam from a company blog.

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Since CrowdFlower requires such tasks to be validated by a third party before the worker in question is paid, the two upstarts created an app that enables iPhone users to quickly and easily fill that third-party role. For example, one of the tasks prompts you to read a tweet and decide whether it’s a positive or negative statement.

Once you mark your answer, it will be used to verify the judgment made by a Kenyan refugee. Sometimes tweets are misunderstood because of American slang, according to CrowdFlower CEO Lukas Biewald, so your contribution helps the refugees produce high-quality results despite cultural differences.

And for each task you complete, you earn a point that translates into cash for the refugees. According to the app, just five points can help them earn enough money to buy vegetables, while 500 points will let them pay for a cell phone data plan for a week, giving them Internet access.

  1. Sounds nice but it feels weird that these poor people have to live from such a stupid work and even need our help to get their salary released. We use some spare seconds on our shiny iPhone to escape boredom while they long for vegetables. I guess some would feel insulted if they knew.

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    1. That’s a good point. However, one great thing about this type of work is that it provides an incentive for people in poverty to spend time on the internet. We’ve seen all sorts of side benefits from this– for example, the refugees are starting to get on Facebook and share their stories. Having a voice online is amazingly important. Here is a blog post with more info about the people this app helps. http://www.socialedge.org/blogs/samasourcing/archive/2009/06/30/how-samasource-could-empower-paul-parach

      Another thing to consider is the alternative to computer work. However boring they may be, web-based tasks are much better than the few options for other kinds of work in high poverty areas. I asked out organization’s founder Leila about some of what she has seen in her travels and there are far more boring, dangerous or even criminal jobs to be had. These include trying to farm on land suffering desertification, breaking rocks in a quarry, or being a sex worker. I’m not exaggerating – in a country with 70 percent unemployment, these are the kinds of things people do to get by.

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  2. Jennifer Martinez Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Hi Markus,
    Thanks for your comment. CrowdFlower has people verify the refugees’ work for quality control. Reading tweets is only one of the tasks they can do, others include rating the image quality of photos and checking photos for copyrights. Though it seems like busy work, Samasource’s CEO Leila Chirayath told me that the Kenyan refugees don’t have many other career options in the camp they’re at. I’ll try to get Leila to weigh in for more perspective.

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  3. Hi Jennifer and Markus – great post and comments. We are huge fans of Samasource at envisionGood.tv – they are truly breaking ground to provide economic opportunity in places with very high unemployment & very few job options. For some background on the places in which Samasource works to bring economic opportunity, please check out these video interviews we did recently on Samasource. In the first video, Leila reports that in one of their locations – Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya – there are 2 high schools to serve 300,000 people. Pirates/rebels are actively recruiting youth in this Camp, etc. Thanks!

    Video Interview on Samasource:
    http://bit.ly/2OWcr0

    Video Interivew on “GiveWork” iPhone app:
    http://bit.ly/2uHtOm

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