Kolorob: Lighting up the City

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Kolorob is an online mobile platform that delivers access to information about local services. Currently focussed based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, it connects people living in informal settlements with essential service providers: schools, clinics, businesses, and government departments.

Kolorob is Bengali for ‘clamour’, and in a local context, it describes people gathering together to talk, exchange information, and converse about their daily lives. 

The Kolorob mobile application combines a directory of services, a map to allow you to find the places you are looking for, a ‘compare’ function to allow you to compare costs and quality of services, and a feedback function to enable users to pass on valuable insider knowledge on service providers to others. The application creates an open space for dialogue between service providers and users, and operates as a marketplace for information that local people need in their daily lives.

Kolorob helps residents living in informal settlements of Dhaka to navigate their city using just their phone or digital kiosks in user-friendly community centres. These centres are equipped with computers, internet, and a room for children and young people to meet, study, play and learn.


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City information
City
Dhaka

Size and population development
About 15 million inhabitants. Dhaka is one of the most rapidly growing and densely populated cities in the world.

Population composition
The majority of the population belongs to the Bengali Muslims community.

Main functions
Capital city; Dhaka has traditionally attracted a large number of migrant workers.

Main industries / business
The Greater Dhaka industrial area is a major hub of the Bangladesh textile industry. Other major sectors of the urban economy include: private education, healthcare, architecture, engineering and consultancy services.

Political structure
The city is runned by the Dhaka City Corporation which was divided into two administrative parts (Dhaka North City Corporation and Dhaka South City Corporation) in 2011. Both corporations are ruled by an administrator.

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Background and objectives

The World Bank estimated the urban population of Bangladesh is likely to double in the next twenty years, growing to nearly 100 million people by 2030.  Incoming migrants, moving into unfamiliar areas of a new city, suffer spatial, social and economic exclusion, limiting their capability to access opportunities and basic social services despite their desire to create better lives for themselves and their children.

Through the use of mobile technology, internet and visual mapping applications, the Kolorob app taps into the virtual space of ICT (information, communication and technology), creating an online platform and physical space to improve access to information on essential services. The online service directory and interactive map helps new urban dwellers to search and compare information: to find a clinic, or a school, or a government office that they may have otherwise not known about.

As a user of the app, you can also add new information to the app, updating details of an existing school, or adding details of a new employment opportunity. You can also provide feedback on the services that you have paid for, answering such questions as: was it value for money? Was it child friendly? Was the service you needed available at the health centre you visited? Are there any free services available?

Kolorob aims to eliminate the social gap of low income communities and people living in urban poor settlements, providing our target users, primarily young people, parents and caregivers - with critical information. Delivering that information quickly and freely can realise children's rights to education, health and protection from harm, as well as give them access to jobs and other valuable information on the city.

Implementation

The "Kolorobian" approach was built on the spirit of volunteerism, with young people driving the innovation behind the game-changing ICT idea to make into a reality. Youth from within and outside of the projects site areas led efforts to map the sites collect and upload data, conduct the research, build the software and brand Kolorob through posters, word-of-mouth and social media.

Over 300 young people applied to participate in the 'Map Your Community' initiative, with 80 eventually being trained by a leading Bangladeshi GIS-mapping expert on how to collect and upload data, from geographic locations and engage with people in communities. Twenty were then selected to participate in further activities alongside the Youth Facilitators, mapping and collecting data. The idea around having a community-centred design ensured that the team was working closely in consultation with community members in developing and delivering a product that is accessible, attractive and user-friendly to those who need it most.
 
Bangladesh has 13.2 milion social media users, and rapid rates of mobile and smartphone adoption. Even low income families often have at least one smartphone. With a focus on the estimated 2-3 million residents living below the poverty line in Dhaka, Kolorob has the potential to impact the growing young population and social mobilisers within their neighbourhoods.
Financing and resources

Kolorob is a project of Save the Children Bangladesh and Save the Children Australia. It is executed through a collaboration between the Policy, Rights and Governance sector and ICT team.

Local and international project partners include:

  • Parra (an architecture firm based in Dhaka and London)
  • Kolpo (a Dhaka-based design studio)
  • Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University (a Sydney-based research institute, with expertise in sociology, and urban and technology studies)
  • OSM mappers (a global community of volunteers contributing to OpenStreetMap)
Results and impacts
The Kolorob Jobs app has been awarded a Solver's prize in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's 2017 Solve Challenge. As a winning solution, the Kolorob team will join the Solve community and have the opportunity to build partnerships with cross-sector leaders who will help to pilot, scale and implement the project. In addition to becoming a 'Solver' in the challenge, the Kolorob Jobs team won a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Indo-Pacific Development Prize of 70,000 AUD to support innovation development and scale up of the app over the next 12 months. They are also invited to attend the next Solve event in May 2018 to pitch for more funding from the remaining grant pool.

In recognition of its impact, in May 2017 Kolorob received the National Mobile Application Award (Inclusion and Empowerment Division) from Bangladesh’s State Minister for ICT, Zunaid Ahmed Palak. Part of the World Summit Award network, the award acknowledges contributions to “local digital innovation with high impact on improving society” (WSA 2017). 

As of January 2017, the Kolorob app has been downloaded more than 10,000 times from Google PlayStore, and more than 2,500 services in the wider Mirpur area registered with OpenStreetMap. The project has led to a greater awareness of services and the local urban topology among community residents, along with potential for mobile phones to deliver meaningful localised information. 
 
In addition, the project demonstrates the feasibility of NGOs like Save the Children undertaking - in collaboration with local and international partners - complex software development and urban mapping “in house”. This capacity is now being employed in further ICT4D projects in Bangladesh.
Barriers and challenges

Many directory services and mapping applications today are funded through advertising revenue or user contributions, such as “in-app purchases” available through many mobile phone apps. Kolorob has deliberately targeted areas that have neither consumers with high discretionary incomes nor businesses with large advertising budgets. Though the project has been highly cost-effective, it is now seeking alternative ways, including crowdfunding, to sustain software development, community mapping and local marketing. 

Lessons learned and transferability
As an example of participatory ICT4D (Information and Communication Technology for Development), Kolorob has been highly successful, raising significant awareness and delivering appropriate technology in a short amount of time. Despite the logistical difficulties and technology learning curves, young local Bangladeshi developers, designers, mappers, testers and community users collaborated closely with support from local management and outside consultants. Incorporating both agile software development and participatory design methods, the project’s ability to include users early and often during the development was key to its eventual technical success.
 
The Kolorob app is open source software, and is being used by Save the Children Bangladesh in other projects. Its approach was also reliant upon open source infrastructure - tools such as Android Studio, Postgres, OpenStreetMap and associated tools, such as OpenDataKit and OpenMapKit - which helped keep costs low, and provides a basis for technology continuity.
References

Kolorob and the National Mobile Application Award:

https://bangladesh.savethechildren.net/news/kolorob-wins-national-mobile-application-award

Save the Children Bangladesh:  

https://bangladesh.savethechildren.net/

Save the Children Australia:  

https://www.savethechildren.org.au/

OpenStreetMap Bangladesh:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/WikiProject_Bangladesh

Institute for Culture and Society: 

https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/ics

Parra:

http://paraa.org.uk/


External links / documents