Apps to Help the Poor to Help Themselves

Published Jul-17-11

A common good crowdsourcing competition to create apps for disenfranchised communities.

One Economy Corporation, United States

The Story:

Apps to Help the Poor to Help Themselves Leveraging the power of the crowd to create applications for the public good was the inspiring goal of the ‘Applications for Good’ crowdsourcing competition. Sponsored by One Economy Corporation, a global non-profit organization and AT & T it challenged designers, developers, researchers and entrepreneurs to devise public-purpose apps that could help to improve the lives of low-income users.

According to research carried out by the Pew Research Center, members of low-income households access the Internet via mobile devices instead of home connections and are therefore more likely to take advantage of mobile data functions. Additional research has revealed that three quarters of adults living in poverty in the US have cell phones, and also that the smartphone penetration is higher in minority communities where the rates of poverty are higher.

However, poorer communities are not viewed as profitable by commercial app developers and so they tend to be ignored, which is where open innovation and crowdsourcing can come in and help members of disenfranchised populations.

“We must constantly challenge ourselves to seek creative ways to meet people where they are in delivering resources that can truly transform communities,” said Kelley Dunne, President and CEO of One Economy. “Ensuring digital opportunity for every resident, regardless of income will take a comprehensive, collaborative and innovative approach.”

Big Money Prizes

The crowdsourcing competition was open for two months and a total of USD $50,000 was on offer for participants who could design applications in the following categories: Health, Education, Jobs and Banking.

The $10,000 grand prize winner was Remás, designed by Brendan McBride and colleagues in New York. The app makes it easier for immigrants to send money back to their native countries. Available in English and Spanish it uses web and mobile technologies to provide users with access to all relevant information about their options for sending money back home. It also advises immigrants on banking benefits and their options for opening a bank account.

“A dedicated team of volunteers has poured hours and their own money into the development of Remás,” said McBride. “This prize money will enable us to finish our testing and take our app live faster than we anticipated.”

Nutrition Missions by Robert Hellestrae won the $4,000 Gaming prize. It introduces users to options for finding healthy food and offers lots of simple and practical advice on nutrition, cooking, green living, food storage and more.

The Health Prize was won by Ysiad Ferreiras for SMS-based app called SnapFresh that helps people to get the most value from their food stamps. It finds locations where stamps can be used to buy healthy food. All users have to do is to send their zip code or address to a phone number and they will be given the five closest places to them that accept food stamps.

Other prize winners include:

MobileSaver - picked up the Banking Prize and is a mobile web portal that manages Individual Development Accounts and helps families to save.

TalkChalk - won the Education Prize and integrates education with social media to connect students, teachers and parents, enabling safe communication outside of the classroom.

The Common Good

Crowdsourcing common good competitions provide developers with the opportunities to create something that is truly life changing, whilst giving them the funds to allow them to fully develop and launch their innovations.


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