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Melanie Edwards (2008) Pop!Tech Pop!Cast

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POP!TECH [♪ POP!TECH Theme Music ♪] Brings Together The World's Leading Thinkers To Share Inspiration and Ideas Igniting Change And Unlocking Human Potential This Is Part Of Their Ongoing Conversation POP!TECH POP!CAST Thank you, Andrew, and thank you, Pop!Tech. It's very humbling to be among all of you. So thank you for the opportunity, and, I mean, where else can you follow Erik and a robotic jellyfish, but Pop!Tech? Difficult act. But I appreciate the opportunity to share our work and my passion. I'd like to begin by painting a picture of our landscape in the world right now. In 120 developing countries, from India to South Africa to Brazil, there are more than 4 billion people who live in either rural poverty or in urban shantytowns like these. 4 billion people, oftentimes with no electricity, no running water, and no sanitation. This is the bottom of the pyramid, or the base of the pyramid that we hear so much about. 4 billion people out of the 7 billion on our planet. That's over 50% of our world's population. Yet we know very little about them because in many cases there's no accurate information about who they are, or no official record that they even exist. No birth certificate. No social security number. No driver's license, or voting registration. This is the base of the pyramid. They're invisible. Now, without knowing who they are, what they need, how can governments and organizations, and community leaders, and NGOs and banks and businesses, effectively channel their resources to meet real needs, such as healthcare, education, microloans, voting registration. Even drinking water, or soap. Accurate information on the invisible is the first step to solving any social problem. This first hit me when I visited the World Bank several years ago, and discovered that their numbers were based on projections, or estimates, often 10 years old. And then when I went to this community in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and asked local government agencies how many people lived there, I heard anything from 5,000 to 60,000 people. Now if we could be off 55,000 people in one community, imagine how far off we are on a global scale. And yet billions of dollars are being spent I mean, are we investing too much? Too little? In the right places? So at Mobile Metrix, we flip this way of data collection from a top down, to a bottom up. We hire and train local youth, based in their own communities, to go door-to-door collecting demographic information using handheld devices. And now, governments and NGOs and community leaders have a roadmap to more accurately channel their products and services. And we have banks -- or I should say businesses -- asking us for information to learn more about these new markets, and to also better develop their products, as well as their pricing strategies. And for me, one of the best parts are these young people, our mobile agents. They now have an alternative out of drug trafficking, and out of prostitution. These people, these youth, are the future at the bottom of the pyramid. They are now starting to see themselves as someone who can make a difference. It's like Chiago. Chiago came to me and said he wanted the job because he had already lost two fingers by a hand grenade, during a drug war. So now we've collected quite a ream of information that we're starting to build on the trends at the base of the pyramid. But we always kept asking ourselves, "What more can we do?" And the answer literally dropped down from the sky, earlier this year, in the form of a mosquito, when about 250,000 people were infected by the mosquito-carrying virus called dengue. And during this epidemic, a mother from a community ran up to me and she had this huge insect in her hand, and she was yelling, "Dengue! Dengue!" And it was like, my gosh, you know, how could she be thinking that... Well, we just realized that there was a lack of information that was reaching the community. So we were thinking, OK, maybe this is how we can make even more impact directly, in people's lives. So we went, and we mobilized the agents to go across several communities collecting not only the demographic information, but now, collecting data on not only what people knew, but what they also didn't know about what dengue was, and also collecting information on their levels of what they knew about preventative tactics or not. And then in this case, Claudio, is also -- after he collects this information -- he'll begin educating her about dengue and preventative techniques, and then share with the resident an invitation to come to a seminar in a local community, where she'll learn more about dengue. And then, with Johnson & Johnson, we put on the seminar, as well as distributed anti-mosquito repellent. So now we've collected, in a very short time, information and found very high rates of infection that we can act upon. We also went back and did an impact study that basically showed that in this case, we learned that there was an increase of 45% in those who understood what dengue was. Of people who attended the seminar, there were 69% who actually said that they had shared the information with other people in the community. So there's a multiplier effect. And on the side of Johnson & Johnson, we learned that 59% said that they would actually buy the product again. So we're now looking to expand this across Rio de Janeiro, and also across 3 other areas that we learned needed more information. The first was on HIV/AIDS -- I'll be real quick -- and on domestic violence and teenage pregnancies. And just quickly, on how we work, we connect, again, the community needs, with the organizations that have the critical products and services to meet those needs, and do so through our core of data collection and analysis. And add the bells and whistles of social marketing such as adding that invitation to come to a seminar and distribution of products and services. And we actually sustain ourselves by contracting with those organizations. I'm often asked why I do what I do, and -- because if anyone knows me, I come from a family farm in the Midwest, which is a far difference from what we see here. But quite honestly, to me, it's really about the lives and the people, and more importantly, what I believe. And I believe that opportunity is a human right. And in the case of, like, Chiago, he's now going into university, and making 3 times over minimum wage. So, the way I see it, Mobile Metrix is not just about changing lives, and counting lives, but it's about making those lives count. This work is licensable under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike License For details please visit POP!TECH For more Pop!Casts, information on Pop!Tech or to learn how to participate, visit

Video Details

Duration: 8 minutes and 38 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Pop!Tech
Director: Pop!Tech
Views: 102
Posted by: beth on Nov 20, 2008

Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellow Melanie Edwards talks about Mobile Metrix.

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