USAID Bets on Tool for Real-Time Mobile Data

Agency partners with Labor Link to Crack the Code on Affordable Last-Mile Communication with Farmers & Workers
Jul 31, 2013 3:30 PM ET
Campaign: Press Releases

OAKLAND, July 31, 2013 /3BL Media/ – USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) is investing $100,000 in Stage 1 funding for Labor Link to give voice to farmers, factory workers, and informal sector workers in India and Brazil. “What we like about Labor Link,” says DIV Division Chief Jeff Brown, “is that it has the potential to quickly and cheaply monitor programs across multiple sectors and countries.” With support from DIV, Labor Link by Good World Solutions will establish direct mobile communication with at least 35,000 farmers and workers making electronics, growing cotton, sewing clothing, and weaving rugs. The tool is expected to reach well over a million people in five years.

Every year, $125 billion is spent by OECD governments on international development aid programs, not counting what NGOs, companies, and private foundations invest in poverty, education, and health programs globally. There’s a call for more aggressive monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to track the impact of these programs. But today’s tools for M&E have a low return on investment. They’re either too expensive, too slow (delivering data after the fact), or only reach a small sample of the target population. This leaves decision-makers with little information to course-correct until it’s too late.

Eighty-nine percent mobile penetration in the developing world opens new opportunities to connect directly with beneficiaries. Labor Link by Good World Solutions is the first people-centric solution that leverages mobile to uniquely "link" base-of-pyramid farmers and workers to program managers – establishing real-time communication. Using simple voice technology – not SMS, which requires literacy – Labor Link opens a two-way channel: 1) Anonymous, multiple-choice surveys that poll community needs; and 2) Virtual training via mobile-friendly messages on rights, health, or education. Data captured is analyzed and visualized for decision-makers so that they can respond in real time and design innovative programs that meet local needs.

“Unlike other platforms that use smartphones and tablets to capture data once a year, Labor Link uses simple phones already in workers’ hands, which keeps costs low and establishes a connection 365 days a year,” says Heather Franzese, Director of Good World Solutions, the organization behind Labor Link. “It’s a vast improvement over pen and paper surveys, giving better data quality and a 70% cost savings.” M&E for agricultural programs can run as high as $150 per farmer. Labor Link reaches them for as little as $2.

One partner, GoodWeave, is using Labor Link to give rug weavers an anonymous channel to report working conditions to the third-party certifier. “We hope to leverage Labor Link to cross-check our inspection and monitoring system in weaving communities, as well as to gather information to inform us about the long-term impact of our work,” says Nina Smith, Executive Director of GoodWeave. The group will also collect responses to the Progress out of Poverty Index™, developed by Grameen Foundation, to measure their true impact.

To date, Labor Link has already reached 58,000 farmers and workers in 8 countries and counting. Farmers in Uganda, electronics factory workers in Brazil, handloom weavers in India, and garment factory workers in China are all using Labor Link to report on their individual and community needs. With support from DIV, Labor Link will test the model across three work environments: farming, manufacturing, and informal sector work. “Our vision,” says Franzese, “is that any worker or farmer globally can – at no cost to them – report anonymously on their living and working conditions through their own mobile phone.”


About Good World Solutions

Good World Solutions, the social enterprise behind Labor Link, develops innovative technology solutions to serve millions of vulnerable workers and artisans in global supply chains. A member of the Clinton Global Initiative and the Global Social Benefit Incubator at Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society, the organization was also recognized last year by the GSMA Global Mobile Awards in the mWomen category. By increasing transparency in global supply chains, Good World Solutions drives systemic change in company buying practices and catalyzes economic empowerment for the people that make popular consumer products.

About USAID Development Innovation Ventures (DIV)

USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) is an investment platform that finds, tests, and scales new solutions to development challenges around the world. Through a year-round open competition for ideas, DIV seeks ideas that demonstrate cost-effectiveness relative to traditional approaches, that gather rigorous evidence of their intervention’s impacts, and that have the potential to scale through the public or private sector without long-term DIV support.