May 25, 2011

Apps for Change: Top mobile ideas from around the world

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JD LasicaOver the past few weeks, Nokia held the first Apps for Change contest, inviting people from around the world to suggest a mobile application to benefit society — which Nokia has agreed to develop. The winners also get to steer a $10,000 contribution to a nonprofit organization.

Some 302 submissions were fielded from people in 53 countries. I was one of the judges in the contest (along with Jussi Hinkkanen, Peter Hirshberg, John M. Jordan and Juliette Powell), and we’re now announcing the winners.

The winning entry was Red Heart, submitted by Sana Refai and Kamel Seghaeir of Tunisia. The entry put it this way:

This application will help you to generate your blood donor’s networks. In case of emergency, you (or someone else) activates the search of your nearest person in your blood donor’s connection (GPS Localization) and contacts him to come give you help. By installing the application, you precise your blood group. When you add a new entry, the application decides whether your connection can be a donor or not according to her/his blood group. The application can be extends from a private network to a public community by creating a website gathering all blood donors worldwide …

We liked the idea of a mobile app being at the center of a process that brings together hospital or emergency workers and volunteers in the community in a way that benefits accident victims through the use of geolocation services. Such an app could allow a wide range of individuals in desperate need of a blood transfusion to find compatible donors in their geographical area. While Kamel and Sana’s app could be useful in developed countries, perhaps its greatest value could be found in developing economies, where mobile phones are ubiquitous – but advanced blood transfusion services are not.

Honorable mentions: Using the crowd to carpool — & more

The judges also singled out three other entries for special recognition:

• Seamus Maguire from Ireland submitted an idea for an app designed to increase the use of carpools, and thereby reduce an individual’s carbon footprint. Using such a mobile app, the user could view other nearby users in need of a ride.

• Christian Andre from Lyon, France suggested an app that would help people to find an activity that would allow them to take positive action in the world. Users could select how much time they wanted to spend on their activity, as well as when, where and what kind of purpose they wanted to support – and they could even decide how hard the action should be.

• Austin, Texas-based Steve Amos offered an idea that was viewed over 1,200 times, with over 100 “likes.” His app would allow teachers and students to use their mobile phones to collaborate on a variety of activities, from creating projects to publishing the results of their activities. In his entry, Steve said, “mobile phones should not be left at the school doors, but rather embraced as a valuable tool in the process of learning and doing great things for the planet.” His app idea is intended to leverage the work of Green Ribbon Schools, an initiative intended to “promote and engage students, staff and families in healthy living and effective learning.”

I signed off on all of these winning ideas and am jazzed at the quality of the entries in Nokia’s inaugural contest, which drew a wide range of forward-thinking suggestions on how to make the world a better, safer, smarter place. As we transition to the real-time Web, it’s good to know that there’s no shortage of innovative ideas for advancing the social good from every corner of the globe.

Incidentally, all of this comes just a couple of weeks after the Applications for Good gathering in San Francisco that One Economy organized with Socialbrite, San Francisco Goodwill and Code for America.

Cross-posted to

Image at top by Yuya Tamai on FlickrJD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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