#UNLEASHLAB2017 Winners: Hear-oes on Demand

1000 talents from 129 countries worked on innovative solutions to help achieve the UN SDGs

UNICEF Innovation
Modibo Sall, 10, teaches sign language to his father Amadou, 52-year-old. Modibo was born deaf. He lives in the village of Bouaké, in the center of Côte d'Ivoire.
11 September 2017

The project Hear-oes on Demand (HoD) was selected as the gold winner for the Education & ICT section at the #UNLEASHLAB2017 which involved 1000 talents from 129 different countries to work on innovative solutions to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


Hear-oes on demand: A closer look

My name is Silvia Muturi and I have 15 years of experience working with the deaf community in Kenya. I’m going to tell you a story about Mary. Mary is a 9-year-old deaf girl who was raped by her school teacher, but does not have the ability to tell anyone. When Mary shows signs of pregnancy she cannot communicate it to her mother, so her mother beats her out of frustration. Mary is now pregnant, out of schools and she does not know what her future will be. This is one of many examples I know on how the deaf are exploited in Kenya. We estimate that there are 1.5 million deaf people in Kenya and 140 Million deaf people in sub-Saharan Africa,

Silvia Muturi, HoD team member

Why is this happening to Mary? The current system is exploiting the deaf community and the interpreters. A middleman controls the fragmented interpreter network and is taking a 75% cut of the revenue before the interpreters receive any payment. This monopoly and lack of an established registry drive up the price for interpreters resulting for Mary and others unable to access essential services. The low pay causes there to be minimal incentives for people to become sign- language interpreters and to standardize the interpreting quality.

Silvia Muturi, one of the members of Hear-oes on Demand accepting the award.
UNICEF Innovation
Silvia Muturi, one of the members of Hear-oes on Demand accepting the award.

We want to disrupt the current system through an innovative shared-economy model that leverages a web and mobile-enabled digital platform to connect quality interpreters to the deaf community through a registry-based matching system. This will improve access to quality interpreters and create pricing transparency which could address the current exploitation. We are building a foundational platform that will act as an infrastructure to create an ecosystem that integrates the deaf community within existing systems. The platform will connect the deaf community to qualified interpreters, leverage existing payment mechanisms to make the transactions easy, and integrate SMS-based services. This web platform will also make it easier to schedule appointments, create a comprehensive database to serve the deaf community and qualified interpreters. Furthermore, a tool that can build an ecosystem that enables engagement and interaction for the deaf community.

Some features of the platform will be a digitized training module for everyone to encourage inclusion, a job finding platform for both interpreters and the deaf community, and an interactive video-enabled engagement tool to be connected globally. The above solution prevents the deaf community from exploitation by making access to interpreters easier, affordable and of a standard (or above) quality.

This will help ensure integration and inclusivity for the deaf; they can access education and vocational rehabilitation services, get better healthcare, understand current affairs, get access to insurance policies, telecom services etc. It will improve education and skill development, as well as lead to better job prospects. Providing quality training modules with a focus on specialized sign language applications will also open up higher paying job markets for the interpreters. This will empower decision-making ability. Integration of the online training and engagement tools for all the users will reduce stigma associated with the disability.

Now let’s think about 9-year-old Mary. With our solution, she would have access to interpreters at school and at home so she would not have been raped, gotten pregnant and, today, would still be in school.

The HoD team with UNLEASH’s Chairman Flemming Besenbacher
UNICEF Innovation
The HoD team with UNLEASH’s Chairman Flemming Besenbacher.

Meet the Hear-oes on demand team: 
Silvia Muturi: 15 years’ experience working with Deaf community in Kenya as Sign Language Interpreter. Works on integrating deaf community in society and enabling access to education, health, social justice, information, and job opportunities.
Ryan Scott: Education Team at Microsoft, MBA, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation personalized learning pilot program. 6 years in consulting.
Rick Martin: Founder of leading AR/VR edtech company. Background in technology sales, and financial markets across 4 continents.
Nela Sladojevic: BA in pedagogy. Working for UNICEF on quality inclusive education projects. 15 years’ experience in policy development and implementation, community development as NGO activist and civil servant.
Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu: Activism on Early Childhood Education, Education in Emergencies and Inclusive education. MA in Leadership and Community Engagement, Consultant World Vision.
Madhvi Aggarwal: BA Psychology & Entre, Operations management and Strategy lead at ITT, Brand Specialist at Amazon. Working experience in 2 continents.