Question Box

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Many in the developing world are missing out on the digital revolution, particularly those over 30 years old. 1 billion adults are illiterate. Two thirds of these are women. Nearly 4 billion people have never been online. Due to lack of electricity, computers, computer educators, Internet connections and local-language content, many of these 4 billion never will experience the Internet. As such, much of the developing world relies on word of mouth, newspaper, radio and television for their information. These systems are not optimal when handling specialized expert information, such as agriculture assistance; private, sensitive information, such as HIV; nor rapidly-changing data, such as train times, examination scores, or produce prices. As such, people around the world make their best guess, unsupported by external information sources. In parallel, there are countless community organizations that have informational expertise but lack the resources to be readily available to their constituents. These include hospitals, agricultural aid groups, women’s organizations, education groups, etc. Currently, contact with constituents usually requires either a field worker to circulate and travel amongst the target population, engaging with people one at a time, or else requires the population to seek out and come to the place of work of the organization. Both of these methods are inefficient from an information exchange perspective, and makes ongoing relationship more difficult. With our system, these groups can establish a point of contact to their offices and invite conversations with the people they serve. For example, we are in discussion with an organization teaching nutrition and childcare to women in slums. Question Box meets the needs of people in the developing world who lack access to information in a variety of areas. For instance, we have helped: isolated farmers whose crops were dying of a virus; school children with homework; & mothers whose children were very ill. We have been incubating the Question Box set of tools and approaches on two continents for 3 years. During this period, we have piloted in 7 Indian villages and in 2 Ugandan districts, answering thousands of questions. Villagers and slum dwellers can simply call a Question Box at their local store or school and get answers they need and want now. With Question Box, users do not have to be literate; they can listen and speak to get information. Our system helps local organizations make their expertise available to users all day long, and not just on the days when a field agent comes by to visit. Question Box sometimes makes all the difference – it has already saved lives & helped farmers survive tough conditions. Open Mind – Question Box has “field-tested” many of the ways a small organization could run a hotline. In the process, we have amassed a large body of practical knowledge. For example, valuable knowledge on how to cut costs; use inexpensive or surprising resources; and how to bring women into the system. We have developed our own unique hardware system, the Question Box, which installs in public areas and is a place where anyone can call in directly to the hotline, even if they are illiterate or lack a phone. Our knowledge can and should be systematized and made freely available to all organizations worldwide. Our mission is to promote the simple hotline as a standard tool of development. This would be the first comprehensive system in existence to teach organizations to implement a cost-saving and impact-spreading hotline.

What we deliver?

Open Mind – Question Box proposes to build a comprehensive set of tools that will enable small and medium developing world organizations to set up and run their own local hotlines. This online toolkit will walk an organization through the sets of questions and worksheets required to develop and deploy a complete, local hotline system connecting the organization and their constituents. By running a hotline, the organization will incur slight cost, and potentially savings via reduction in travel times, while increasing access and utility to their communities.

Why is the project unique?

To our knowledge, we are the only innovation like this in the world, both in terms of the core concept, and in terms of the fact that our mission is to train other organizations to replicate and advance the Question Box approach. No one else is offering the tools and knowledge to set up do-it-yourself information hotlines. There is nothing like it available Open Source. We are the creators of the Question Box, which is unique in the world. Besides being the only group offering the tools to replicate Question Box, we are the only organization that we have encountered that offers a broad spectrum of information to people in the developing world, live & in their own language.


Open Mind Company
Rose Shuman
Santa Monica CAN

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