Poverty Stoplight Mobile Platform
During this project, I led the research and implementation of a poverty elimination software platform. Our team of four had two primary objectives. The first was to discover unexplored methods of using technology, in combination with the Poverty Stoplight definition, to fight poverty more effectively. Our second objective was to implement a new mobile application, deploy it, and test it with social service workers throughout the world.
Poverty Stoplight is a new multidimensional poverty definition created by Fundación Paraguaya. Where most definitions only measure income, the Poverty Stoplight takes a more holistic approach and measures over fifty indicators including education, housing, access to transportation, and self-esteem. To meet the first objective, we interviewed and surveyed social service workers from countries around the world (primarily the United States and Paraguay). Our research yielded a number of findings. Despite stereotypes about the use of technology in third-world countries, social service workers in Paraguay utilized more technology than their counterparts in the United States. Social service workers in Paraguay referenced the results from the Poverty Stoplight survey frequently while making decisions. They worked with the family until they resolved every problem, and documented evidence of the family’s progress (for example, before and after photos of a remodeled kitchen). Social service workers in the United States, on the other hand, primarily relied on conversations with their clients and rarely used a standard methodology in this process. Without conventional methods, there was often no tangible way of verifying results.
Our formative findings indicate that Poverty Stoplight is ripe for technological innovation, and social service workers can benefit immensely from these innovations. One example is recommended solutions. Our research showed that nearly all social service workers reuse solutions and ask their peers for advice. This finding means that social service workers can only use solutions that they, or the people they directly work with, have experience with. Technology can improve this process. Using the detailed data provided by the Poverty Stoplight, correlations between problems and practical solutions can be established. If one social service worker comes up with a solution to a problem that was helpful to a family, this solution can then be recommended to all of the social service workers in a region, for example. Our research also found that social service workers are extremely overloaded with work. This work can be quite unpredictable, as it is difficult to discover how complicated a client’s situation is until working extensively with them. Due to the comprehension of Poverty Stoplight though, it is possible to capture the full scope of a family’s position and learn about the difficulty correlated with it. Our research also indicated that social service workers are especially proud of the families they help. During one interview, a social service worker from Paraguay mentioned that the technology she lacked the most was "a color printer." She explained that they take before and after pictures of families’ progress, and those pictures aren’t as impressive in black and white. Multiple interviewees also stated they need a better way to share successes with their peers, primarily through photos and videos. If a social network were integrated into the platform, social service workers would be able to share their successes, find peers who have faced similar problems, and communicate more efficiently with one another.
Following this research, we implemented a next generation mobile application for poverty elimination. The application was designed to meet the basic surveying needs of the foundation, in addition to some of the features identified in our research. Based on the findings of the formative research, we set a development goal attainable in the scope of this project. Next, over the course of multiple iterations, we designed the interface with increasing degrees of fidelity. After the foundation approved the initial visual designs, a minimal viable product (MVP) of the full application was developed. The goal of an MVP is to implement the fundamental features required to get feedback before proceeding with development. Fundamental features included authentication, viewing a list of family profiles, and surveying families. In response to analytic tool results and the foundation’s feedback, we added the ability for families to choose their priorities and redesigned significant portions of the app. Sodep and the foundation then helped conduct the first usability test with users in Paraguay. The results showed that while the application offered many benefits over the former application, there were challenges that needed to be addressed before the application could be formally released. In response to these results, the team standardized styles throughout the application, improved the survey taking experience and addressed many other usability and technical issues. The application was then successfully released on the Google Play Store. The foundation determined that it was useful, and began making it available to social service workers. The foundation advertised the application to potential and existing organizations implementing Poverty Stoplight during two global live streams (Spanish and English).
After implementation, social service workers tested the final version of the application and provided feedback through surveys and usability tests. The new mobile application proved to be more efficient according to social service workers’ feedback. Social service workers were very impressed with the design of the new application. Overall, they also found the new application to be a lot more stable than the previous platform. Although the application proved to be a success, further development is still needed. Therefore, the project was made to be open-sourced to allow for future development.
Our mobile application is currently being used in Paraguay, Sierra Leone, Mexico, Colombia, South Africa, United Kingdom, and Argentina. Social service workers use the application to perform their job with less technical complications than the previous platform. Consequently, social workers can more efficiently help families step out of poverty. Over one hundred social service workers have installed and started using the application. Our software application, combined with the power of the Poverty Stoplight methodology, is revolutionizing how poverty is treated.