Apps for Good: smartphones solving local problems

Young people looking for jobs and new skills … community problems needing innovative solutions … smartphones increasingly popular … apps for these phones a big growth area. Why not mix those elements and create a new project Apps for Good? Which is exactly what CDI launched last week, with a big grant from Dell.
Is this just another social-media-will-solve-our social-problems dream? After some great conversations at the launch, I think there’s more to it than that.
I’ve been following with great interest the research undertaken to Iris Lapinski to see how CDI could bring the digital inclusion work they started in 1995 in Latin America to the UK. Their mission is:

… to transform lives and strengthen low-income communities by empowering people with information and communication technology. We use technology as a medium to fight poverty, stimulate entrepreneurship and create a new generation of changemakers.

I guess many in the growing digital inclusion business would like to say the same … and I’m sure there will be many inspiring examples at the National Digital Inclusion conference this week. What’s different about CDI is that their approach is rooted in the highly participatory educational philosophy of Paolo Friere, and they aim to develop and support projects that may be social enterprises, and individuals who may become entrepreneurs.
This approach is being piloted in the UK at High Trees Community Development Trust, Tulse Hill, London, where young people will learn how to develop apps for Android phones. This will require technical skills – but a lot of the community benefit should come from the development of critical thinking and problem-solving approaches that figure out how to turn local knowledge and data into an app on a phone that enables people to do something they couldn’t before. Or at least much more easily.
As you’ll see in the first video, the launch at High Trees provided a chance to meet CDI founder Rodrigo Baggio. He and Iris explain the project, and commercial apps developer Charles Cadbury of Whiteapp gives us a view from the industry.
I then spoke to Daniel Morris and Charo Moreno about how local young people will engage, and to Mauricio Davilia, director of CDI Europe … and joined in a conversation between Richard Smartt, who is running the course, and Dan McQuillan who has long experience of both social action using social media, and social entrepreneurship. They were agreed the project should yield both some monetary value and social benefit.
I personally found it particularly interesting that the project is housed in a Community Development Trust, a model for sustainable community development that I did some work on before getting involved in social tech. When I first saw online community networks in North America in the 1990s, I thought aha – virtual development trusts. Later I helped develop, with others, a manifesto for local online communities that included community technology centres. In those days – only 10 years ago – we thought about how computers in community centres could bring social benefits.  Now people have computers in their pockets, and the CDI apps project offers the prospect of adding the community goodness.

One comment

  • May 7, 2010 - 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Nice to learn that Dell helped out with the funding of Apps for Good. What a way to solve community issues, huh? Saw the video too. Impressive.

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