Crowdsourcing Startup Turns To An iPhone App To Boost Refugee Wages

For several months now, some 200 Kenyan refugees in the Dadaab camps have been helping foreign companies with a range of repetitive online tasks. But sometimes the quality of the work can suffer in part because of translation. “They speak English, but might not know slang,” says Lukas Biewald, who is CEO of CrowdFlower, a San Francisco-based crowdsourcing startup that recruits thousands of people to complete repetitive tasks for big companies and is overseeing the work. CrowdFlower is hoping a new iPhone app will address that issue.

With the new app, iPhone users in the U.S. will be asked to complete the same tasks as the Kenyan refugees to help improve the accuracy of the Kenyans’ work. If all goes according to plan, Biewald says the Kenyans should be able to double or even triple their wages. “If we can get the same level of quality with half of the work we can pay them twice as much,” he says. Samasource, the non-profit agency Crowdflower has been using to find Kenyan refugees to fill the jobs, says the refugees will now be able to earn at least 50 cents an hour — a substantial amount in the camps — while learning computer skills.

The app — called Give Work — joins a list of apps which try to make it easy for iPhone owners to help out good causes on the go. The Salvation Army’s app, for instance, streams a mix of Christmas tunes in exchange for a $2.99 donation. (See a list of other non-profit apps here).

Give Work promotes usage by turning tasks into a game complete with levels and a leader board. The app is being advertised primarily via word of mouth. “We don’t need tons and tons of people to download it for the system to work,” Biewald says.