Tools for Community: Mobile Phones, Speakeasy, Networks, and more..
Another story from MobileActive: Emily Gertz, our friend at WorldChanging and our prolific MobileActive blogger, profiles Tad Hirsch of txtmob fame and his Speakeasy project in Chinatown in Boston. Using voice over IP telephony and mobile phones, Speakeasy is a "a software-enabled telephone call center staffed by multilingual community volunteers. Newcomers to Chinatown who are not fluent in English can call the service and connect with someone from the neighborhood who can provide immediate language interpretation, answer questions, and offer advice."
Using Asterisk and social engineering, Tad and his colleaguee are putting together "a system that inherently weds technology to building social networks that connect people in the community to each other, and that can be leveraged for other kinds of community development activities in the future -- from political campaigns, to fundraising, to other kinds
of mutual aid projects."
In the spirit of the "democratization of innovation" where users, enabled with technology come up with new, cool uses of a tool, Emily notes: "Much to Hirsch's delight, Guides [distributed call center volunteers] also made use of another Speakeasy feature: ad hoc conference calling. This allowed the Guide to quickly initiate a call out to a third party, such as an agency, nonprofit organization, or local business -- putting the caller, the Guide and the agency or group staffer on the phone together. The Guide was able to interpret between English and the needed Chinese dialect in real time -- and also build trust with the caller."
Take a national or international Speakeasy with a tool such as the Google-enabled local search pilot project in the UK, theplacetobe.net; Google Local and Google SMS, A9 and its very cool neighborhood maps, the brandnew Ning, Wiki Cities and Idealist's invitation, open up those APIs, and imagine what might be possible...