Qatar is an amazing place to be in at present. There is a sense of purpose and commitment in the country as new technology and new ideas are discussed, considered and implemented. We can see that across a range of initiatives, the new museum, transport systems, social networking and the introduction of creative commons are all examples of the desire for open innovation across the country. At Mada, the Qatar Assistive Technology Center, we see this energy every day, students and friends of the center regularly offer their time and skills to help make Qatar a truly inclusive country for people with a disability.
But during a time of rapid development and growth, people’s time is precious and changing demands mean that it is often hard to commit to offering services at the same time every week or month. We need to find new ways of harnessing that passion and commitment to achieve our shared goals.
One approach which can be hugely beneficial is volunteers as crowds. Crowd sourcing is an idea which has been around for a few years, we’ve seen it successfully used to influence product design or to market new ideas or products – its even been used to shape agendas for political change ! But at Mada we want to try to utilize the concept for very practical purposes.
The way we hope to do this is through an idea called slivers of time. Slivers of time asks volunteers to commit time during a week or month to complete a specific task. Those tasks are allocated or distributed online, either by email or through a message board. A task might be “ find the cheapest source of USB drives in Qatar” A volunteer might have said that they can offer three hours this month, and seeing the task offers to undertake that task during the week or month by the deadline requested. On the board the task turns yellow to say it is underway.
Sometimes bigger tasks can be shared. We might ask “create a photo montage of accessible cars for people with physical disabilities” It might be that three photographers offer to contribute photos and two designers offer to work together to create the montage and offer it in different formats.
Each contributes the skills and time that they have available and together achieve bigger results than they could do separately.
Mada wants to progress this idea and invite citizens and residents of Qatar to become involved in this new drive. Initially we have two “big ideas” we want to share with the community
Community Arabic Digital Content (CADC)
CDAC is about how we take materials and documents available to under license and create Arabic or Accessible versions. These might be translations of information resources, or subtitle files for short videos or some other form of digital content. These materials would then be used to help inform and advise people about access to technology not just in Qatar but across the Arabic speaking world.
CDAC is also about helping create accessible digital content in Arabic. We need people who are willing to proofread and correct electronic documents after they have been scanned from print copies, these new versions will be stored at a central repository where they will be available to Arabic speakers globally
Open Source Assistive Technologies (OSAT)
OSAT is a chance for programmers to become involved in a code for good initiative. There are many open source technologies available for people with a disability, but many of these don’t yet support Arabic, these projects would store and manage code for new assistive technology and invite programmers to work on improving and revising code to meet the needs of people with a disability in Qatar.
What do I do to get involved ?
Not a lot at this stage – we want to know if there is enough interest in Qatar around which we can build a community. All you need to do is
Email us with one word in the subject line CDAC or OSAT – give us your contact details in the email
When we have enough expressions of interest to start work – we’ll build the repositories and start inviting you to offer your slivers of time, the fragments of a week that you can contribute, by adding all those fragments together we can achieve remarkable things together.