Xin Chen, Assoc. AIA; Ziqian Wang
Informobile aims at reducing the distance between informal city and formal city through two means of information exchange.
C.K. Prahalad, the economic professor in the University of Michigan, stated that "the informal city is the bottom of the pyramid that holds up the formal city", which explained the mutuality relationship with informal city and formal city. However, the gap of wealth, lack of access to sanitation, local services, and most importantly, lack of education and information, isolated informal settlements from the formal city. Due to the lack of information, most of informal cities are still a mystery for the world, and vice versa.
In order to soften the boundaries between formal and informal cities, information exchange is the first step and vital element. Only if slums are thoroughly studied and analyzed, could the effective, efficient, and targeted methods be conducted to improve living conditions in informal cities. Meanwhile, only if the slum dwellers have access to wider information, could they find the most adaptive means to improve their living conditions, and further obtain higher social identification and reduce social estrangement.
Informobile provides integrated online and offline service in two mobile means. It collects slums' information through the app that is designed to reward local slum dwellers for information input. Collectors will get reward on various ways, including reduction of electrical, gas or water bills, tax exemption from the government, or discount on purchasing green appliances and furniture. The information will then be shared with local government, global business, non-governmental organizations, urban planners, architects, economists, sociologists and volunteers.
The Informobile app can be easily downloaded with a smart phone or with the Informobile device that is fabricated and funded by Informobile program supporters, such as government, business groups, and NGOs. Slum dwellers, as the firsthand information collectors, can easily use the app to locate the place and report the relevant or surrounding information, including land use, natural resources, transportation, infrastructure, household information, pollution etc. Information can also be input with the computers in Informobile house. Informobile is also a mobile showcase of self-sufficient dwelling that is tangible to slum dwellers. By providing information on affordable housing techniques, Informobile aims specifically at promoting living conditions of slum dwellers inch by inch.
Utilizing the sustainable methods in the housing, slum dwellings will have higher energy efficiency, which results in lower utility expense. It will also benefit the environment by promoting material recycle and water filtration and reuse, which leads to fewer landslides, less air pollution, and water pollution. With a 17 feet by 9 feet (truck not included) footprint, the mobile house can fit into dense slum areas easily. Besides, the interior space can be extended three times larger by unfolding the envelope on the sides. The house can accommodate two volunteers' daily electricity and water supply independent of any external resources by utilizing sustainable techniques. The mobility of Informobile house frees the work from the limits of place, allowing volunteers to live and work virtually, and can largely increase the chance of information exchange.