Konbit: Connecting orgs in Haiti to Haitian labor, whether online, offline, literate, illiterate…

One of the intriguing developments following the earthquake in Haiti a year ago was NGOs’ coming to terms with the fact that their dependance on technology allowed them to overlook local labor. Konbit, a remarkable project that grew out of a Center-sponsored class on building technology for Haiti, took this to heart.

After the earthquake, many new NGOs arrived to help, yet only the established ones had reliable access to a key labor resource: speakers of Haitian Creole.

So despite being surrounded by countless Creole speakers, the NGOs flew translators in, at high cost.

The Media Lab’s Greg Elliot and Aaron Zinman developed Konbit in response. Konbit allows any local with a mobile phone to call a number and record a narrative of their skills–Creole, midwifery, whatever the skills may be. That short narrative is then translated by volunteers, and NGOs can search those translations for the workers they need.

Earlier today, Public Radio International reported on Konbit:

You can dial into Konbit from anywhere in Haiti, courtesy of local cell provider Digicel. You are then greeted by what’s probably a familiar voice, at least if you’re Haitian. The team got veteran broadcaster Bob Lemoine to record the voice prompts.

“His voice is great,” says Zinman. “It was good to have a voice that Haitians would trust.”

After a brief welcome message, Konbit then leads you through a series of those all too familiar voice prompts, asking if you have certain kinds of work experience.

Engineering, leadership and nursing are Konbit categories. So, too, are babysitting and sewing. When you find an area where you have expertise, you can leave a detailed voice mail message highlighting your skills.

“We wanted to figure out how we could help people tell stories about their lives,” Eliot says.

PRI reports that Konbit has been running in beta for just two weeks but has already handled 500 calls.

Center for Future Civic Media director Chris Csikszentmihályi served as one of Konbit’s collaborators