THIS week saw the launch of two “new” social media apps purportedly designed for Filipino netizens. I enclosed the word “new” in quotation marks because one of them is in reality a three-year-old app but was relaunched supposedly for the Philippines.

Kooha is a social sensing app designed and developed by the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) and formally launched last March 30. Lyka, meanwhile, is a social media application that converts content into cash. Its chief executive officer, Ryan Baird, in a CNN Philippines interview on March 24, claimed that they used the Philippines as a launching pad for the product.

Lyka app

According to Baird, the target market of Lyka is everyone who enjoys social media — but with a difference. The app compensates its users just by interacting with the system. Instead of an ad-based model to generate revenue, Lyka makes money through financial transactions carried out through it.

Baird suggested that the Philippines was used as the launchpad instead of the United States. Once they prove that the product works in the Philippines, Lyka will be launched in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. He believes that Lyka can make a bigger impact in Southeast Asia than in the US.

Users are enticed to switch to Lyka by letting them earn Gems. Each Gem is worth one Philippine peso (for convenience according to Baird). Users receive Gems by rating others, being rated by others, content sharing and having followers. Simply logging on the app would likewise give users some Gems.

An online search revealed that Lyka, previously known as “Things I Like App” was established and running since 2017. “LYKA is a digital ecosystem, an application which includes social media, gift-giving and -receiving method, secure chat, unique reward system, e-commerce platform, and more. It is a Hong Kong- based company. During its beta-test, we were able to reach over 100,000 users in six months, including the biggest celebrities and artists in the Philippines.”

Based in Hong Kong? How come its CEO is saying that it was established in Silicon Valley, USA? If it has been up and running since 2017, why would Baird assert that it is “new”?

Kooha app

DoST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) developed Kooha, a photo-sharing application, the name of which was coined from the Filipino word “kuha,” meaning to take or capture. At its launch, Undersecretary Rowena Guevara said it was “built for the Filipino people.”

Media materials released by the DoST describes Kooha as an “application that enables real-time participatory photo and sensor data collection using smartphones and mobile devices.” Also, the “photos and sensor data collected through the app will be used to draw out insights and generate new knowledge and technologies that can be used across sectors.”

The sensor data collected from the pictures that users capture includes location, temperature, sound, network signal, humidity, luminance, infrared temperature, pressure and acceleration, among others. As ASTI’s officer in charge Alvin Retamar would put it — “it’s more than just a picture; it’s a scientific contribution.”

The main objectives of DoST in creating Kooha are to “carve out a niche for big data generation using available sensors in smartphones and external sensor devices; develop an online social network of students, enthusiasts, researchers and citizen scientists built on the concept of sharing and mapping contributions of photographs and sensor data across the globe; empower the general public to contribute to the scientific community; and provide a medium for data scientists, researchers, and citizen scientists to make use of big data generated by the Kooha application.”

Kooha developers enumerated several potential areas in which the generated big data from Kooha pictures can be used — “telecommunications, business, transportation, tourism, academe, environment, health, and policies and regulations.” Its developer averred that Kooha is a breakthrough in research and development since it makes data exchange easier, public service is more accessible, it is a better social network, and generates big data.

The readers might be asking — what is big data? Who cares about big data?

Big data is an information technology term that refers to “extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.”

Take note that data has an intrinsic value. Some big companies “sell” data that they collect overtime. Anyway, data is of no use until its value is discovered. Finding value in it is not only analyzing it (which most confuse with just statistical analysis) but in identifying patterns, recognizing and predicting behaviors, and, more importantly, posing the right search questions.

I hope that DoST will be able to reap something from the collected big data — not simply to churn statistics out of it. Otherwise, this app will just become just be another white elephant project funded by the people’s taxes.

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