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Konbit Developers Interviewed at MIT Media Lab

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Hi, my name is Aaron Zinman. I am a final year PhD student here at MIT Media Lab. And I like to think about new ways for people to communicate online. Gregg Elliott. I am a first year's Master student here at the MIT Media Lab. And I look at new ways for people to interact with machines and reduce complexity in interacting with them. Aaron: So, MIT as you know, is a première technological institute. But, we also have a big kind heart. Right! And we would like to think about us as tackling large problems accross the world: the bigger, the better. And when we had this disastrous earthquake in Haiti, as an institute, we came together thinking about what are the different ways that we can tackle this very large problem? One of the things that MIT is, uniquely positioned to do, to come up creatively with new technologies or provide assistance in other ways for the people of Haiti. Gregg: You know, Aaron had a very broad vision for how to connect people and get communication back on line in a chaotic structure. And then, we both started thinking about how... what would we do in Boston if something like that happen? In the first first minutes, what do you do to handle the chaos? What would you need to know? What would help everyone feel better and have a place, a position, something to do? So we started thinking about skill indexing. If we knew ahead of time what people could do, then, we can sort of direct traffic right away and say: This guy is a natural leader, this person is a doctor, and this person is a counselor. And you can start to, actually, manage people right after a disaster. Aaron: And so, given the fact that the earthquake already happened, we can't build this system for immediate disaster response, what can we do in the medium term, which is, actually, what we would have the time to be able to do, if we had the skill data, could we start to do something new with it? We kept hearing over and over again, in the political discussion in this class, that often times NGO's, who are some of the biggest employers in Haiti, classically, they often bring their own people: Americans, Canadians, Israelis,... whatever, instead of hiring local Haitians even though they might be able to do the same job. simply because it's difficult to figure out in the chaotic system where you even turn. If you don't have things like, ... Half of the population is already illiterate and maybe can't use existing newspapers. Then, it's difficult to go through this kind of process. So, we sympathise with this... I think we can do better technologically. And we can build a system that actually is able to make it easier for NGO's to find Haitian Nationals. Gregg: And that was one of the major issues. It was literacy. A lot of these systems that you see, that use mobile phone technology, rely on someone being able to read those text messages and send a lot of them back. We started thinking: what if you can't read? So, we wanted to create a system that will allow people to use just the natural voice, listen to things, speak back because why should they be left out from the job employment sector? And how can we actually humanize job searching more? Not just make: "I can cook" but what about your life that allows you to cook? Can we get some life experience? Basically, humanize the whole situtuation. Aaron: So, our intention with the system (which by the way is free an open-source) so, we are not making any money off off this. All of our work is put out there for free. Anyone can take the system, change it, repurpose it, however they'd like. So, I just want to make that clear, to start with. Our intention in building the system out in a partnership is that we are trying to get Haitian Nationals jobs and make it easier for employers to come in and be able to find these people. Specially, a population that traditionally would be very hidden. It might normally be through word of mouth, through some kind of social networks, it would be a lot more equitable and targeted. And, we think that there is a lot of special things that we are doing with that here specially because in building this data base and having it be really end to end from indexing skils to the search by the potential employers, to the job recruitment integrated into the system. We then get to start to see who is getting jobs, not just from one orgainization which normally only knows about themselves but across all organizations, so we can really be much more equitable in sharing jobs across organizations and across the population. English Transcription by Yanick Landess

Video Details

Duration: 4 minutes and 20 seconds
Year: 2010
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: MIT and
Director: Tod Landess, Head of Production
Views: 112
Posted by: koze on Aug 11, 2010

Following the Miami beta test story, KozeAyiti reporter, Yanick Landess, interviews the Konbit developers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT Media Lab, in Boston on July 22, 2010.

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