Mapping hyperlocal BoP markets, Ushahidi might work well

I'm going to try and describe something that Erik Hersman and I once talked about for about an hour or more over Skype back when I was still living in Singapore, could have been early this year. Anyway, we got into discussing it over email again and I have his permission to share some of these ideas.

What the Ushahidi engine does is visually flag locations with an accompanying sms text message. It could conceivably help something like Kiva.org (which is an internet website) to connect with their community of loan seekers allowing them to write back their progress and letting the loan givers visualize their money's journey and ROI.

Now, Erik feels that maps may not always be required, a list is enough but I wonder whether the maps might not eventually help when everyone can access the interwebs through 3G or something as it is a tool that transcends language and culture. Sure the sms needs the ability to read but I wouldn't be surprised if local "languages" are firming up around sms usage among the BoP in different parts of the world. I dimly recall a press release by Nokia long ago in some Indian newspaper that people who didn't know English were nevertheless familiar enough with the alphabet (they teach it even in slum schools as "english medium" these days) to come up with stuff like DD for sister (didi) and BB for wife (bibi).

Anyway, I was thinking out loud whether Ushahidi might not even help the colalife.org people as a way to keep track of the various people they work with? It might help with logistics and distribution? What happens when you integrate it with a payment method?

I bet it could also connect mobile phones by SMS to the internet?

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