Singapore: Crowdsourcing by individuals/startups

Earlier in my broad presentation on crowdsourcing in class, a classmate asked about the crowdsourcing scene in Singapore. Environmentally, I have not known much about the Singaporean crowdsourcing scene. An article written in 2013 by Soh (2013) was boldly titled “Why crowdsourcing sites won’t take off in Singapore”. Interestingly, the article highlighted the issues of donators not being comfortable to use paypal, bank transfers and cheque deposits (Soh, 2013). Also, the lack of early adopters proved to be an issue, as campaigns could not raise sizable sums to support their projects. Out of curiosity, I wanted to study how accurate this article actually is, given that it has already been 3 years since it was published. In that crowdfunding efforts may not have direct environmental impacts, I would point out the indirect impacts on the environment too, to keep to my project scope.

In order to better evaluate these initiatives, I borrowed a model by Sowmya and Pyarali (2014). The authors wrote about e-governance and the critical factors that affect the success of crowdsourcing. However, I think that it applies to general crowdsouring platforms as well. These are the factors and their application to the broader crowdsourcing world (will be measured on a 5-point scale):

  1. Vision and Strategy: Brabham (2009) says that a clear goal and objective for crowdsourcing platforms and their initiatives are very important. This helps the platform to stay focused and sustainable as it can develop useful functions in line with this vision. This vision also allows participates to also share this same dream and direction.
  2. Citizen-centric approach: For the general analysis, I think this factor can be renamed as participant-centric approach. The platforms need to have means of communication to understand the user.
  3. Infrastructure: Without trustworthy technologies, people will not want to participate. In order to maximize participation, Donner (2009) says that accessible, cheap and stable technology is required for all crowdsourcing projects.
  4. Financial Capital: If the capital required for the investment is high, crowdsourcing initiatives may find it hard to survive.
  5. Reward for Participation: As seen from my first crowdsourcing post, open collaboration sites struggle to survive due to the lack of incentives. This applies too for crowdsourcing sites. If the site does not benefit the individual monetarily or even through intangible means, people will not participate (Bott, 2012).
  6. Information Management: With information and even big data, a secure and effective system of interpreting, analysing and using this data is important.

Startups and Individual initiators in Singapore

1. Homegrown crowdsourcing platforms

To start, Singapore’s earliest crowdsourcing platform Togather.asia is no longer function and transferred me to a different website. Besides this site, other sites that failed included Firecrackers and 8squirrels have become out dated and forgotten. These sites have failed due to lack of popularity and poor infrastructure. Furthermore, they do not have a clear strategy.

HOMEGROWN SITES GENERAL MODEL:

homegrown.jpg2. BEELINE

Besides the crowdsourcing platforms that hope to encourage individuals to jump on, applications like Beeline have also started up to harness the power of crowdsourcing. Beeline is a crowd-sourcing transport system in Singapore. With a pretty awesome pre-booking for express private bus rides, individuals can save on travelling time. However, has not been that great a success.

BEELINE MODEL:

beeline.jpg

Environmental change: Reducing length of travel routes, maximizing space in buses and encouraging express public transport can help reduce carbon emissions on a large scale.

Magnitude of change: Poor

Poor due to lack of brand awareness and low supply of seats (at most 3 seats per bus) (Siong, 2015). Now, Beeline only offers 21 routes and has only 11 fleets of buses. According to the model, I think that the areas it is struggling most in is the high financial capital required to achieve economies of scale. Also, they have poor information management not on the collecting end but the using of information, because Beeline’s cannot be meet the demand in new routes due to the high financial capital and ultimately, leading to false hopes and high churn rates.

Despite this bleak start, I went on and discovered that users of international crowdsourcing sites seem to have a higher chance to success.

3. SILVERLINE

One success story is Silverline. Silverline is an application that can be downloaded on the phones of the elderly or individuals who are sick or with fall risk. When the mobile of the elderly or patients meets an impact (e.g. hits the floor), the mobile will automatically call/inform their emergency contact. Using the site called Indiegogo, Project Silverline raised more than their target of USD$50,000. Beyond the development of this amazing application, Silverline has expanded sufficiently to buy over refurbished phones to be donated to older adults which will have the application pre-installed (Silverline, 2016). Now, Silverline is working with Singtel to develop more features such as a user-friendly chat for them and their friends and family, as well as other trackers that inform caregivers if their patients have left their homes. 

INDIEGOGO MODEL:

indiegogo.jpg

Environmental change: Indirectly, phones that could potentially be thrown away are now transferred for a different use (recycling). More accurate and fast emergency information could possibly increase a person’s life chances. If we consider the amount of resources placed into (1) searching for missing old people, (2) false alarm for ambulances (amounted to 2829 calls in 2015) (Hussain, 2015) and more, some environmental harm could be reduced.

Magnitude of change: On a social and security level, Silverline users are better protected and their caregivers will have a peace of mind at work. With donated phones, fewer materials are needed to build phones for this new market.

Besides Silverline, Indiegogo has more Singaporean success stories than other home grown crowdsourcing platforms. Singaporean projects have raised over $134,000 in 2013 (Nunnelly, 2013). The model can explain this, as Indiegogo has been able to meet the needs of its people with good infrastructure, a reliable management system and high rewards.

Conclusion of Startups/Individual initiatives

Based on this assessment, home-grown crowdsourcing platforms have not been performing well as predicted by the article written in 2013. The reasons include low trust among host and participants, low site awareness and the lack of a culture to participate in these projects. Indiegogo may have more success stories as their reach in greater in terms of funders and the culture of crowdsourcing is more evident in other participating countries. However, the lack of talk about the environment may hint that individuals and startups either do not value the environment or do not have the capacity to make big changes. As such, I turn to analyse the government crowdsourcing projects available.


 

References

Chern, A. (2014). There are now at least 8 crowdfunding sites in Singapore launched in the last year or two. Aside from 8squirrels, ToGather.Asia, Firecracker and Spark Facility, what are some other sites that people know of? AnswerQuora. Retrieved 6 April 2016, from https://www.quora.com/There-are-now-at-least-8-crowdfunding-sites-in-Singapore-launched-in-the-last-year-or-two-Aside-from-8squirrels-ToGather-Asia-Firecracker-and-Spark-Facility-what-are-some-other-sites-that-people-know-of

HUSSAIN, A. (2015). Rise in ‘995’ calls to SCDF for ambulance serviceThe Straits Times. Retrieved 6 April 2016, from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/rise-in-995-calls-to-scdf-for-ambulance-service

Nunnelly, A. (2013). Indiegogo Trends: Singapore Slings Into the Crowdfunding Arena – Indiegogo BlogIndiegogo Blog. Retrieved 6 April 2016, from https://go.indiegogo.com/blog/2013/04/indiegogo-trends-singapore-slings-into-the-crowdfunding-arena.html

Silverline,. (2016). Silverline Story | About | Caring for the Elderly Made SimpleSilverline Mobile. Retrieved 6 April 2016, from http://silverline.mobi/our-story/

Siong, O. (2016). Few takers so far for crowd-sourcing transport service BeelineChannel NewsAsia. Retrieved 6 April 2016, from http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/few-takers-so-far-for/2202998.html

Soh, D. (2013). Tech in Asia – Connecting Asia’s startup ecosystemTechinasia.com. Retrieved 6 April 2016, from https://www.techinasia.com/why-crowdfunding-sites-wont-take-off-in-singapore

Sowmya, J., & Pyarali, H. S. (2014). The Effective Use of Crowdsourcing in E-Governance.

Brabham, D. C. (2009). Crowdsourcing the public participation process for planning projects. Planning Theory, 8(3), 242-262.

Donner, J. (2009). Mobile-based livelihood services in Africa: pilots and early deployments. Communication technologies in Latin America and Africa: A multidisciplinary perspective , 37-58.

Bott, M., & Young, G. (2012). The role of crowdsourcing for better governance in international development. Praxis: The Fletcher Journal of Human Security27(1), 47-70.

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