Is there an App for “human development”?

02/04/2011 at 8:02 am 14 comments

An overview based on research by Ciara Aucoin

(scroll down to the Comments, to see further suggestions)

Citizen Journalism

  • Ushahidi “Ushahidi”, which means “testimony” in Swahili, was a website that was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. Since then, the platform has promoted “citizen journalism” in other crises, playing a role, for instance, after the Haiti earthquake.
  • Kenyans were also using Twitter to send real-time updates to a website monitoring election incidents. Uchaguzi is a technology platform that allows citizens and civil society to monitor and report incidences around the electoral process. The reports are then sent to the electoral authorities or security personnel for action.
  • University researchers in Taiwan have released a mobile phone application that with one touch can transmit to any number of people the location of users trapped in earthquake rubble or debris. The app transmits the latitude and longitude co-ordinates of people stranded in disaster areas. Users anywhere can download Mobile Saviour for $2.99 in English, Chinese or Japanese. All proceeds from the sales of this app will go to victims of the devastation either through Japan’s foreign ministry or Red Cross chapter.
  • sought to reach Kenya’s youth who use the slang language commonly know as sheng, to engage them in the referendum on the draft Constitution, or Katiba Mbichi –
    , is another social network that allows the public to download the constitution on their mobile phones in their ethnic language. Ikatiba, hosted by, offers the draft constitution in 10 different languages including English, Swahili, Sheng, Dholuo, Kikuyu, Luhya, Gusii, Kamba, Kalenjin and Meru.

Mobile business

  • Mobile phone applications can send farmers market data via SMS messages, to monitor prices, crop demand, weather and the location of seeds and fertilizers. Such systems have been used in East African countries but are less prevalent in West Africa. One such application is Esoko.
  • Kilimo Salama, is a crop insurance programme that will cover the expected value of farm harvests against drought and flooding. Farmers purchase the insurance through local agro-dealers, who use a camera phone to send the policy to UAP over a mobile data network. Payouts are determined by data collected through 30 weather stations in the targeted regions that have been renovated with automated, solar-powered systems capable of broadcasting regular updates on weather conditions and rainfall quantities occurring near individual farms.
  • Mmatcher is a personalized mobile marketplace, which automatically in real time matches complementary interests. For example, mmatcher will match a cabbage seller with all potential buyers that are interested in his product. India is full of online marketplaces, but Mmatcher provides a solution to people who don’t have access to computer, but do have a mobile phone.


  • Singapore has launched a smartphone health diary application for rheumatoid arthritis- MobileCare. The new mobile phone application aims to help sufferers play a more active role in monitoring their condition. The application will calculate the severity of their condition, and allows patients to post questions to their doctors.
  • New York City Health Departmentofficials have released a mobile phone application to help New Yorkers find free condoms. The app uses the phone’s GPS to locate the five nearest venues that distribute official NYC Condoms. It also offers tips on condom usage.
  • In South Africa, Cell-Life is a programme that uses mobile technology to improve the lives of people infected and affected by HIV. Health workers monitor a patient whom they visit at home, using data enabled mobile phones they record the patient’s medical status and other relevant factors. This data is transmitted to the central database where care managers use a web based system to access and monitor patient information.
  • Mganga is a mobile phone application that will record, catalogue and map out traditional medicine and knowledge. Many Kenyans consult a traditional healer or make use of some traditional healing practices, and the application will take advantage of this knowledge using mobile phones to collect, access and disseminate this information.
  • Rape Crisis App: RCNI have developed an Iphone and Android App containing useful information, support, contact details and links. The app allows users to find the information they need to support victims of rape.

Activism and “micro-volunteering”

  • Give Work is an iPhone application that lets you support refugees in Dadaab, Kenya – the world’s largest refugee site – by completing short, on-screen tasks. The refugees are training to complete these same tasks and, by volunteering to tag a video or trace a road, you will generate money to support their training as well as valuable data to help focus future training programs.
  • Sparked allows micro-volunteers to use their skills to help causes they care about. Sparked helps nonprofits increase their capacity by giving them a low-maintenance way to get free work done from a huge pool of talented professionals; including creative design, job description review, new product brainstorms, new website focus-grouping, media relations strategies, and so much more.
  • Vincent De Paul have developed an app iHobo that has a young homeless character live in your phone for 3 days. The objective of the game is to keep him out of trouble and take care of him so that his life doesn’t’t unravel. It is an informative and useful tool to teach young people about homelessness.

Relief work

  • Pakistan Flood Relief App :This app keeps you up to date on the 2010 Pakistan Flood crisis. This was written for a Pakistani NGO, Awaz Foundation Pakistan to raise both awareness and funds to deal with the crisis. You can get the latest happenings, see what projects are in the works and donate to the cause/charity.
  • Refugee Unite is a pilot project to locate and reconnect refugee and internally displaced persons families through the use of a mobile phone and the internet. The mobile phone application creates a database for all refugees registered by UNHCR and Refugees United so that families can locate their long lost relatives.

NGOs and non-profits

Not particularly for development but interesting for ideas:

  • Low-income people without reliable access to Internet and technology do not enter into the job search through the modern tools. The m-Employment platform allows job seekers to build short profiles using SMS to connect them with job opportunities advertised.
  • Gaptrac is a mobile-phone application that lets friends and families follow student gap-year travellers online as they live abroad.
  • Luna Luna is a cell phone application focused squarely on women’s health. The application is a female-oriented and more personalized version of a medical website. The most popular feature of the application is the daily message from Tim, the portly white rabbit who alerts users where they are in their menstruation calendar. Terry is another long-eared animal tasked with keeping women informed about health-related concerns. He lets women know when it’s a “safe” or “dangerous” day” the times when conception would be most likely or unlikely to occur using easy to read graphs to highlight the timeline. There is also the service of checking a woman’s diet choices.
  • A Czech firm has launched a mobile phone application Et netera to stop tourists being overcharged by taxi drivers. The app uses a global positioning system that measures the distance and calculates the proper fare.
  • Planetoi is both a mobile lifestyle platform for consumers and a “rewards delivery and management system”. The PlanetOi’ application allows users to communicate via instant messaging, and allows companies to promote sales and do market research. A Rewards Scheme – that allows brand partners to operate within a limited coalition scheme via their customers’ mobile phones, and that also  caters for cash paying consumers (many schemes do not). Source: Dow Jones International
  • M-Drive programme has an interactive mobile shopping catalogue that allows the user to communicate directly to the seller by autodialing through a link attached to the product. M-Drive makes use of smart advertising techniques to upload product details on the mobile platform without sending the user to the owner’s website.

PS. The Wheel has put together a list of Free Apps that can be used to enhance  Facebook pages

Entry filed under: NGOs, Overseas aid. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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