From Crowdsourcing to Crowdseeding: The Cutting Edge of Empowerment?

New chapter by Peter van der Windt in the book Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood: “In 2009 Columbia University launched a pilot project in the Kivus region of the Democratic Republic of Congo called Voix des Kivus. The point of the project was to examine the potential for using SMS technology to gather conflict event data in real-time. Given previous experiences in Eastern Congo, the research team expected that collecting high-quality event data in Eastern Congo in the traditional way (sending out enumerator teams) would be challenging, while using traditional approaches to collect event information in real-time would be impossible. As a result the team launched an SMS-based pilot project called Voix des Kivus. Parts of the Kivus have cellphone coverage, and cellphones are relatively inexpensive. Moreover, while enumerator teams have problems crossing bad roads or washed-away bridges, phone-signals do not. Finally, an SMS-message sent is received
The Voix des Kivus project used a “crowdseeding” approach which combines the innovations of crowdsourcing with standard principles of survey research and
statistical analysis. It used a sampling frame, selected sites through systematic random sampling, and identified specific reporters in each site. Researchers then
“seeded” mobile phones to select “phoneholders” and trained them on how to use the system and what to report. Only these pre-selected reporters could contribute
into the system, rather than anyone with a mobile phone or connection of some sort, as it the case with standard crowdsourcing platforms.
This chapter draws on this experience to discuss how such ICT projects might empower populations by enabling the collection and distribution of information as an alternative mechanism of governance…”