Collecting product prices in Africa using crowdsourcing (II)

About rewards

When you ask for a task like this, you have to be aware that you are asking for a task that people do not usually do. And you also have to be aware that people normally expect a return.

Therefore, there are two options: either to give some reward (money, products, prizes, etc.) or to explain that this task pursues an end greater than the mere collection of prices, and that this is the reward.

It is important to explain to the crowd why they should undertake that task. Explain to them how the collection they are doing helps other people and their own city. It is necessary to let people know that their participation, their contribution, has a meaning. In this way, there will be people who will be willing to participate without expecting a tangible reward but because just for helping. These persons will be the best bulwark of the initiative: they strive to do it well because what they do, have a meaning. They no longer collect prices, but help others.

Obviously, there will be other people who won’t care about helping others and that will want money o any other reward. We need to be realists.

About the information collected

A situation that has been mentioned by a workshop participant is that sometimes the information to be introduced by the crowd is not clear or that there are different variables.

One of the main points of crowdsourcing is that the problem to be solved must be clearly defined and the crowdsourcer must point the parameters that will make a answer to be considered a correct answer.

In this sense, the interface of applications to collect data will be fundamental: it should be easy to use, but also help avoid incorrect answers sometimes limiting the type of response, using drop-down boxes, etc.

Crowdsourcing as a form of participation

During the workshop, different speakers made reference to the characteristics that the proposed initiatives should have. I was curious how many of them match with the 10 principles that Daren Brabham raises in his document “I use crowdsourcing in the Government” that I mentioned a time ago. Although the organizations that have explained their crowdsourcing initiatives are not governmental, they share some characteristics. I recommend everyone reading Daren’s document.

The added value of crowdsourcing

The fundamental question about the hypothetical added value of crowdsourcing in this particular case was raised during the workshop. Is it better to launch an initiative of this type, with the costs involved, or pay that money to a trained person who does it so reliably? In short, does crowdsourcing have an added value for product price collection? Quick answer: it depends.

Crowdsourcing is not something magical that always works and depends on many factors. Can crowdsourcing be used to collect product prices? Sure. Is it the best way to do it? It will depend on the situation. There will be situations in which, due to the political situation of the area, the low integration of information technologies, etc. the best option could  be to pay a specialist. There will be other situations propitious to apply crowdsourcing.

Therefore, generally you can not make a law of which activities can be sutitable to be done using crowdsourcing and which not. It will depend on the situation



Crowdsourcing is a process that can make use of any application or web platform to collect data. General platforms such as facebook or twitter can be used to carry out crowdsourcing initiatives, as well as other more specific platforms such as Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Crowdsourcing has great potential, but it’s not a magical process. It has some costs, both from carrying out the initiatives and when processing the information collected and validating it. And you also have to find a willing crowd to participate. Therefore, it will have to be evaluated in each situation, whether it is the right process or not.

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