Question: Is there an opportunity to use Crowdsourcing technology to figure out where consumers are being let down by brands or outright being lied to? Could Crowdsourcing play a role in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts of companies vis a vis engagement?
Some reports point to research on this very question:
When asked why crowdsourcing is so valuable for CSR programming, executives say that it surfaces new perspectives and diverse opinions, builds engagement and relationships with key audiences, invites clients and customers from nontraditional sources to contribute ideas and opinions and brings new energy into the process of generating ideas and content.
Further interrogating CSR is Lorenzo Sacconi, University of Trento – Department of Economics and ISO 26000 (CSR Guidance) (February 2004) LIUC, Ethics, Law and Economics Paper No. 142 ‘Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a Model of ‘Extended’ Corporate Governance: An Explanation Based on the Economic Theories of Social Contract, Reputation and Reciprocal Conformism’ (December, 2004) and Trento University Economics Working Paper No. 11 ‘A Social Contract Account for CSR as Extended Model of Corporate Governance (Part II): Compliance, Reputation and Reciprocity and ‘CSR as Contractarian Model of Multi-Stakeholder Corporate Governance and the Game-Theory of its Implementation’ (May 30, 2008) Therefore expected CSR responsibility is broader and extends deeper than valuable media publicity generated and benefiting corporates seen engaged on such programmes.
Crowdsourcing holds duty bearers accountable to rights holders. It can de-centralize vulnerable self-organized advocates by distributing demand for action to scattered “foot soldiers” much harder to target and/or compromise. Counters the adage “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” negated through “keep your friends far and your enemies farthest.” The Internet in particular (and telecommunications landscape in general) illustrate both the challenges faced by users while also offering crowdsourcing power to mitigate the problem.
Let us take the case of Kenya: Myriad problems with access and uptime of telecom services confront scattered and divided consumers. Many consumers do not even know what rights they have regarding privacy, and how that dovetails with efforts by the government to monitor the internet. In the face of consolidation threats, eavesdropping and unpredictable down times, consumers need online platforms to pool strength in numbers while advocating for their rights. Could there be an opportunity to harness participatory democratic online tools to counter lack of competition, choking mergers, acquisitions that build up to new private monopolies?
How can this be achieved?
Use of the platform in places like India point to a possible bell weather and a lesson to learn from. This deployment of the Ushahidi platform by the Telecomtalk team collects information about presence of 3G, 4G and EVDO Networks, network quality and Wi-Fi hotspots in Indian cities.
A small first step to explore this question, albeit by just figuring out downtimes of key internet service providers is being put together by iHub members. It can be accessed on Jua.Crowdmap.com. Jua means ‘know’ in Swahili. It will be quite similar to TelecomMap and will be a first attempt at crowdsourcing information about the Telecom industry in Kenya. How that information can help to inform the consumer/cyber law rights will be a frontier to reach for.
*Many thanks to Alex Gakuru, Martin Kariuki and Tom Kilonzo for discussing these questions and for their thoughts on the same.
Also, see this article on the Telecom Map.