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June 4, 2009

Apps for social change

GLOBAL – The N2Y4 NetSquared Conference was held last week in San Jose, California and comprised two days of meetings and seminars facilitated by leaders “working at the cross-roads of technology and social change”. One of the conference highlights was the announcement of the winners for the N2YR Mobile Challenge, which called for innovative mobile applications supporting social good. There was a raft of excellent entries for the challenge and picking winners couldn’t have been easy, but pick they must and we’ve got the list of winners, and featured projects after the jump.

Walking away with a $25,000 cash prize was our old friends from FrontlineSMS. This time picking up the award for FrontlineSMS:Medic which utilises FrontlineSMS software to empower community health workers in developing countries. It’s a deserving winner as FrontlineSMS has just been going from strength to strength, thanks in part (at least) to its unrelenting creator and Conversations buddy Ken Banks.

Picking up $15,000 for second place was on-demand crowd-sourced Volunteerism via Smartphone – aka, The Extraordinaries. Enabling volunteers from all over the world to dip in and volunteer spare moments in time to help solve tasks around science, medicine and government, amongst others.

$10,000 and third place went to VozMob which enables those who don’t typically have access to digital technology to still take part in open source discussion and sharing, utilising low-cost mobile devices.

We want to wish all the winners and featured projects a hearty congratulations, and also a big well done for all those taking part. Please take some time to check them out. Mobile phones offer an incredible opportunity to change people’s lives for the better, particularly in emerging and developing countries. We’ve written plenty of times in the past of the myriad ways phones can make a difference and these various projects all highlight real impact in very real situations.

Check out the brief intro on the winners below along with links to their profiles on NetSquared, and the list of featured projects.


FrontlineSMS:Medic is a team committed to empowering community health workers in the developing world using appropriate mobile technology. After almost a year of working with FrontlineSMS in Malawi, we are launching FrontlineSMS:Medic to extend the capabilities of this software and bring it to health centers across several continents.

The Extraordinaries

The Extraordinaries is smartphone software (iPhone, Blackberry, and more) that allows millions of people to perform brief micro-volunteer tasks on their smartphones in a few minutes of spare time. People login to our system from any place on Earth within cell reception, and constructively use small windows of spare time for science, medicine, nonprofits, government, and more. Tasks are accessed on-demand, from anywhere, at any time — while riding the bus, waiting in the doctor’s office, standing in line at the post office, and more.


Marginalized populations lack access to digital technology yet aspire to participate meaningfully in the digital public sphere. Mobile Voices offers an open-source multi-media platform optimized for low-cost mobile phones that lets users create, share, and reflect on stories about their lives and communities. An academic-community partnership, the project brings together immigrant day laborers, scholars, software developers, and community organizers for participatory design, curriculum development, evaluation and research around this emerging media tool and its social impact.