Low-income urban dwellers in India face crucial but complex decisions when they engage in the construction or expansion of their houses, their most valuable assets. From financial planning to construction management, they rely solely on advice from neighbours and local masons and their decisions often lead to poor use of limited financial resources and technical mistakes during construction. In addition, today poor communities are completely unserved by construction professionals as architects and engineers.
This lack of access to construction technical assistance today exists as a socio-economic gap between poor communities and professionals. It is leveraging technology that we want to bridge this gap.
We strongly believe that appropriately designed technical training modules and customized inputs offered to underserved communities engaging in incremental housing can positively influence the quality of the buildings. This is based on the observation that many gross mistakes are made due to lack of basic construction knowledge (and not necessary to financial constraints) and that if corrected, the safety and quality of buildings could dramatically improve.
Digital tools able to deliver these services can became direct guides and improve the output of other interventions as mason’s skill training programs or awareness campaigns on safety of structures. Digital tools can thus be critical to improve the quality and resilience of low-income rural and urban communities, the most vulnerable to natural hazards and in particular earthquakes.
With initial seed money from Internet.org (Facebook), we are currently develop our first service (TRY THE PROTOTYPE HERE) that will target low income dwellers who take up construction (or expansion) of houses on small plots. The outcomes are information on construction management and financial planning for the planning phase (thereby reducing the risk of indebtedness and empowering them in their dealings with masons/contractors). In addition, the service will bring to the users pragmatic inputs (through easy-to-understand, customized visual messages) for the construction phase (thus, positively influencing the quality and resilience of these buildings).
While the prototype is now being tested in Delhi and Ahmedabad, the next key steps are launching a mobile based application that will be available on desktops and smartphones as well as an intermediate IVR service for feature phones.