Community Feedback: Keeping a Remote Sales Network in the Loop

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Source: Ashoka

From the outside, Ibu Sinta’s warung in the city of Denpasar looks like any other small, family-run grocery shop so commonly found throughout Indonesia. But take a closer look and you will see several unusual products, including solar lamps, fuel-efficient cook stoves and water filters.

Here’s the twist: Ibu Sinta’s warung is actually a Tech Kiosk. These are small shops that sell simple, life-changing technologies alongside a variety of everyday goods.

Kopernik, a Bali-based nonprofit organization, launched its Tech Kiosk initiative in 2012. In just one year, its network has grown to include 41 Tech Kiosks across five Indonesian provinces.

Each shop is a focal point for making simple technology available to its community. They expand access to products that save people time and money, improve health and safety, and ease pressure on the environment.

Managing and advising the growing Tech Kiosk network presents interesting challenges. Tech Kiosk micro-entrepreneurs must be trained and kept up to date on how to use and maintain technologies, as well as in business skills such as financial management.

The success of Kopernik’s network of grassroots businesses depends on technology that enables it to maintain strong, frequent feedback loops with its Kiosks, feeding in data about their needs and performance. Kiosk owners must also be notified about product updates, and reminded to make product repayments to Kopernik at least once a month.

That is why Putu Monica Christy, who manages Kopernik’s Tech Kiosk network, uses FrontlineSMS to streamline this otherwise time-consuming job. FrontlineSMS allows Christy to quickly and regularly check-in with Tech Kiosk owners in every location via text message.

“I use FrontlineSMS, the offline version,” Christy said. “The technology is really useful. I use it to send notifications for repayment dates or training invitations, a job I used to have to do manually by cell phone.”

She also uses the tool to create simple surveys to monitor Tech Kiosk operations. The data collected from the field is then processed and analyzed to figure out the best methods for managing the growing network. For example, to formulate a better repayment system, Christy asks Tech Kiosk owners to let her know which bank they use for business transactions. She simply sends the following text:

Good morning. This is Kopernik’s Tech Kiosk Survey. Which bank do you use for business? Answer with 1 for “BRI”, 2 for “Mandiri”, or 3 for other banks (please specify).

Owners only need to reply with “1”, “2”, or “3, bank name,” and Christy will receive their responses on her computer. Later, the responses can be exported into a spreadsheet for detailed data analysis.

“The key is to keep it simple,” Christy advises. “Our partners in the ‘last mile’ often only have basic phones that cannot display long SMS messages. So the messages should be kept short and straight forward.”

She feels that for two-way communication, the tool has more room to grow. “The app does not show the sender’s name in my computer, even though I have saved their number in the address book,” she said. “I need to identify the senders one-by-one when conducting the analysis in the spreadsheet.”

While the current technology makes a start on closing feedback loops between NGOs and their users, continuing to strengthen two-way dialogues will close them even further.

Christy said Kopernik’s Tech Kiosk team appreciates that FrontlineSMS’s tool is easy to use, requires minimum training, and any additional information needed to operate it is made available by fellow users in  an online forum on the official website. She recommends this technology to non-profit organizations that want to send large-scale alerts and notifications to a community or field workers in the simplest way possible.

Kopernik has found FrontlineSMS very helpful for facilitating real-time communication with shop owners in its growing number of locations across Indonesia.

Vivien Ayun is a research and business development officer for Kopernik, a nonprofit organization that connects simple technology with last mile communities to reduce poverty. This post first appeared on FeedbackLabs.

Kopernik has joined the “Close the Loop: Feedback for Results” competition with the project “Catalog of Impact Tracker Tech: ICT tools for data collection“, and Ewa Wojkowska, Kopernik co-founder has recently been announced as an Ashoka Fellow

By sharing this story we hope to share the ways in which the connections created between a community of changemakers is helping find solutions; across a competition "Close the Loop", the Ashoka fellowship process (Kopernik co-founder has recently been announced as an Ashoka Fellow) and a consortium in which Ashoka is a partner (FeedbackLabs) that focuses on working across organizations and initiatives to find feedback fixes that incorporate community involvement in social solutions.