Illuminating the developing world’s “invisible” consumers
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
While on location in remote areas of Kenya, researching automation and home manufacturing for his doctoral dissertation, Kenfield Griffith PhD ’12 encountered a significant lack of data.
For example, information he needed about whether people had access to indoor plumbing was scarce or nonexistent — and conducting traditional surveys to gather the data would be arduous and time consuming. But nearly all rural Kenyans, he realized, had texting-capable cell phones.
Back in his MIT dorm room, Griffith built a platform that allowed users to easily create and send text message-based surveys, and monitor incoming results in real time on a web dashboard. Returning to Kenya, he amassed hundreds of participants to use the platform, and completed his research.
“I was getting interesting information that you couldn’t find anywhere else, from people who didn’t have a bathroom but had mobile phones,” Griffith says. “That was the epiphany for me, where I said, ‘This could be an opportunity to really understand consumers on the ground and create conversations at scale.’”