Published by Kerry on 14 Mar 2010 at 01:10 am
We checked out Rachel Weidinger’s panel at SXSW, amusingly titled ‘Handheld Awesome Detectors: World-changing Mobile Apps.’ It captured the pulse of all SXSW can be: cutting-edge tech coupled with conscience. Read on if you missed it!
Austin, Texas, sunny day, warm evening. First day of the conference (known as “South By” to locals), the long room was buzzing with people on their laptops and phones. Rachel introduced her organization TechSoup Global.
“What you make goes everywhere.”
Rachel had us consider our impact on the planet with several cogent examples, such as a dirty toothbrush that found its way back to its well-intentioned designer after an ocean journey.
She asked us about our awareness of our surroundings, from local vegetation to geology. Interestingly, right then an alarm went off in the building, reminding us of the urgency of awareness. Rachel cleverly tied it into the presentation, the Twitterers in the room found out it was false, and SXSW officials confirmed.
Greater awareness on multiple levels, fortunately, is something we can get quickly with the use of some innovative and planet-healthy mobile apps…
Apps to watch
Rachel recommends these apps for making sustainable decisions on the go:
- Locavore – Use their mobile app tp find your local farmer’s market, or when travelling, their local farmer’s market! Follow them on Twitter @enjoy_locavore
- Seafood Watch – Their mobile app can be browsed alphabetically to check how sustainable that halibut is while at the restaurant. They’ve also come out with the Super Green List: healthy for you and the ocean! Follow them @seafoodwatch
- Good Guide – Ratings on more than 70,000 products with criteria ranging from health and the environment to social issues, great for grocery shopping… For those technically-inclined, check out their API and follow them @goodguide
“Mobile empathy amplifiers”
According to Rachel, these “amplifiers” use the immediacy of the mobile network to convert the empathy of thousands or millions into concrete, helpful actions.
- Ushahidi – An open-source volunteer-driven project that began in 2008 in Kenya to track ethnic violence around the elections by collecting SMS incident reports and mapping them. It was used in the Haiti earthquakes and has since spread to other disaster areas. FEMA and the Marine Corps have used and praised the effort as being the most effective alert system for locating distress. @ushahidi. As a volunteer-run org, they’re always looking for more help. FEMA is quoted as saying of Ushahidi, “…don’t stop mapping, you’re saving lives.”
- The Extraordinaries – A lightweight platform that nonprofits can use to create mobile volunteer micro-opportunities, quick tasks that anyone can do to make a big difference. For example, it was also employed during Haiti, the app has been used to match missing person photos with living person photos.
- Frontline SMS - One of our personal favorites that Rachel didn’t mention. It’s software that turns a laptop and a mobile phone into a central communications hub. Once installed, the program enables you to send and receive text messages with groups of people through mobile phones. No internet connection required!
A changing field
Red Cross- Haiti Mobile Campaign – Not a platform, per se, but a campaign that proved to be game-changing. The Red Cross Haiti Mobile Campaign raised $37 million for Haiti in 3 weeks. The SMS model for donation seemed to strike a chord with the public. There were 189,024 tweets directly referencing the number between Jan 12-14. “It didn’t feel like donating to charity,” Rachel says of donating to the campaign. “It felt like personally responding to a call for help.”
And her conclusion? Get those ideas flowing! How can we create more game-changers? If you have further thoughts or mobile apps to recommend, post them here!
Photo Source: William Hook
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