Konbit: A Skill-Indexing Communications Platform for Haitians


The recent earthquake in Haiti may not be at the forefront of our minds anymore, but the rebuilding process in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere has barely begun. Two students at MIT hope to move things along with Konbit, an interactive communications platform that lets locals report their skills via text, phone (voice input), or Internet.

Designed by Greg Elliott and Aaron Zinman, the Konbit platform is intended to help Haitians announce skills that might be helpful in local recovery–i.e. construction or translation abilities. The service is completely language and medium neutral, which means that users’ responses can be translated using either voice or text/Web services. All Creole messages will be translated by Haitians and inputted into a database for nonprofits to peruse. This is a crucial point–since 60% of Haitians are illiterate, Konbit would be almost useless if it couldn’t translate voice messages.

By giving Haitians the opportunity to advertise their services, the students hope that Konbit can prevent unnecessary outsourcing of labor. For a country that had ultra-high unemployment rates even before the earthquake struck, job opportunities to rebuild the economy are imperative.

The MIT students plan to have a prototype ready to go this month. If all goes as planned, Elliot and Zinman hope to persuade Haitian telecommunications companies to get on board with the service.