Financial planning and construction management are two of the many crucial decisions a home-owner takes while building a house. For low-income dwellers, building incrementally in informal settlements, these decisions become complex and multi-layered processes owing to their economic vulnerability. In spite of this, advice on building their most valuable assets is sought from traditionally trained local masons and neighbors. This often leads to under-estimation and poor construction management trapping the home owner in a cycle of debt and cost cutting methods, compromising on the safety of the building and jeopardizing the credibility of the mason.
Proposing access to technical assistance as a means to mitigate this loss, mHS developed a construction planning and cost estimation digital tool as part of the Digital Tool initiative. Collaborating with SAATH Charitable Trust, the tool has been introduced in Ahmedabad as a pilot project testing the value proposition and at the same time reaching out to home-owners and masons with the service. The service allows the user to input basic details like plot dimensions and amenities, giving them a detailed breakdown of the estimated cost, time and material that will be needed at each level of construction.
Two informal settlements have been selected in East Ahmedabad – Hatkeshwar and Behrampura – where various distribution and out reach methods are being tested to maximize out reach as well as to collect and analyse feedback for further iterations. In the first phase of the pilot, an e-kiosk has been installed in identified locations within the settlements, where the tool can be accessed. Based on the results, a door to door service has been adopted in the next phase. Currently the door-to-door service is facilitated with a netbook, enabling the service provider to give the estimate directly on site. So far the pilot reached out to over 300 households in the three phases of its operation and over 30 masons.
The feedback from users is being analysed to develop the next phase of the digital tool, which will provide assistance on design and construction techniques. It is envisioned to be a learning platform with pragmatic inputs in the form of easy-to-understand, customized visual messages.