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Technology Empowering U.S. Diplomacy and Development

The Tech@State community has grown rapidly since its founding in August. Already there are nearly 300 members and some very active conversations. We know work is brewing among you in other channels as well. We’d like to hear more and share your good work with others. The media are asking us for your stories.

If you’ve developed a new relationship and/or started a new project because of Tech@State, please take a moment and tell us your story. This is your chance to promote your work but also to encourage others to do likewise. This kind of sharing can also encourage further and broader collaborations that will make all our work that much more effective.

Then, if you'll allow, we are going to be featuring these stories in an article about Tech@State. Reporters have been following these events and this site and want to hear what you've done. This is a chance to turn your good work into earned media and a boost for the global effort.

Please share your stories in a comment on this post below or email us at tech@state.gov

Views: 64

Comment by Kathryn Peters on October 27, 2010 at 12:03am
I predict I'll be posting a series of fantastic stories here after the Civil Society 2.0 conference.
The Tech@State invite has helped give the TurboVote project a real profile boost - and my co-panelist Andrew Rasiej became one of our early backers - but there's still plenty of collaboration ahead. Remind me to post them as they happen!
Comment by Greg Elliott on October 29, 2010 at 10:54am
Hi all,

Last May, we presented our project, Konbit, at the Haiti Tech Meet-up and since then a lot has happened. Notoriety from that conference and from our meetings at MIT has helped us move our project along. Specifically, we solidified our relationship with David Sharpe of Digicel, whom we'd previously only been in contact with remotely. We developed a relationship with NetHope, InSTEDD, and formed new media relationships. We even were able to speak with Haitians who had been on the ground and were able to give us valuable feedback on our project. Lastly, we integrated more closely with the larger effort to help Haiti. Additionally, Konbit won the grand prize of $8,000 at the MIT IDEAS competition and has received generous donations from The Freygish Foundation and General Atlantic.

To recap, Konbit is a system we built that helps organizations source local labor instead of relying on foreign workers. To be found, locals (illiterate or literate) call our automated service and we help them record their skills and life experiences as compelling, story-like messages. These messages are then translated and crafted into personas of potential employees that are easily searchable by NGOs, GOs, and third-party employers looking to perform work in Haiti. We currently have a server in Haiti and are about to run a 3,000 person trial in Port-au-Prince in cooperation with Digicel and 1,000 Jobs/Haiti.

Here are the updates in more detail:

As we mentioned, we received an additional generous grant from General Atlantic -- matching The Freygish Foundation's donation -- and this money has allowed us to expand the reach of our trial and improve benefits for callers. Our colleagues at the University of Miami and "Konbit for Haiti," Tod and Yanick Landess, Maggie Desroches Austin, Marli Lalanne, and Manoucheka Thermitus have contributed an unbelievable amount of effort to the project. Thanks to them, we had a successful initial trial in Miami, in addition many other tasks and overall guidance. Furthermore, Haitian radio personality Bob Lemoine generously donated his voice to record our new phone call. Tod and Yanick also recorded a Public Service Announcement with Bob that was edited by Brian Halpern, a former NPR member. The PSA will run in Haiti when the trial begins.

Now, we are ready to run the 3,000 person trial in the coming days. Our server is now in Port-au-Prince and is being installed by Digicel. We're finishing up the last bits of code and have incorporated Bob's new phone recordings. The support from General Atlantic and The Freygish Foundation have enabled us to give 15HTG in Digicel credits to each caller as a show of good faith in case we cannot get that person a job. We've lined up translators at 1,000 Jobs/Haiti to translate the initial batch of messages quickly so that we can show the data to prospective NGOs and employers. Our trial should begin around the end of October, and we're hoping to have the data translated by December.

Lastly, we've been contacted by international employers that are eager to use the system when it is up and running. For example, an architect / planner from California wants to build an orphanage in Haiti and is looking to train and hire Haitian workers. This is exactly the kind of use we want to encourage now and in the future.

Konbit has now become Greg Elliott's master's thesis, and will continue to be developed, refined and tested over the next year.

You can follow updates on the project on
The Konbit website: http://konbit.media.mit.edu/status
Twitter: http://twitter.com/konbitmit

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