At White Fuse, we are constantly impressed by the sheer breadth of creative social projects out there that use digital technology for good. It’s exciting that there are so many initiatives using digital technology to bring about change, providing access to skills, knowledge, employment, health expertise and other services. We thought we’d share the top 10 examples we've come across through our work building charity websites.
Ushahidi (meaning testimony in Swahili) is a nonprofit tech company that develops free and open source software for information collection, visualisation and interactive mapping. Their first website was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya during the post-election crisis in 2008 and was designed for citizen journalists. Their software has since been used all around the world.
They’re also branching out into hardware with Brck, a backup generator to the internet designed for countries with poor digital infrastructure.
Avaaz launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.
“Avaaz is only five years old, but has exploded to become the globe’s largest and most powerful online activist network.” - The Guardian
Campaign wins include saving fin whales from butchery, stopping mass Maasai evictions, securing safety in the UK for half the Afghan translators employed by the British Army, and getting 75 retail giants to sign an enforceable worker safety plan following the Bangladeshi garment factory collapse in May 2013.
M-Pesa is a mobile-based money transfer and microfinancing system operated by the two largest mobile network operators in Kenya and Tanzania. It’s currently the most developed mobile payment system in the world and brings banking to millions previously unable to access it. Over 50% of the adult population in Kenya uses the service to send money, receive money from far-flung relatives, and pay for services.
The Zooniverse is home to the internet’s largest, most popular and most successful citizen science projects. It started with a single project, Galaxy Zoo in July 2007 and now provides a valuable free learning resource, viewed by thousands of people worldwide.
Since 2006 the Khan Academy, founded by Salman Khan, has provided free video lectures on subjects such as maths, biology and history. They have recently introduced computer programming lectures which are more interactive (following demands by critics that the lectures are not experiential enough). Khan is planning on rolling out more products for educators, for free, which is a big deal. Some are saying its such a big deal that (along with Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia), he’s changing the very economics of education.
As a Northerner please allow me a cheeky plug. Despite occasional initiatives from our (thoroughly Southern) government, regional inequality persists. Happily, there are some initiatives taking this into their own hands. Broadband 4 Rural North (B4RN) is an innovative community-led project to bring high-speed broadband internet connectivity to domestic and business properties in rural Lancashire, functioning as an internet service provider. Much of the labour to dig trenches was supplied by local volunteers, rewarded with shares or a chance to get a connection to their families or businesses.
Academic Earth believes everyone deserves access to a world-class education, and offer free online courses from the world’s top universities to achieve this.
Here's a video they made about bitcoin.
(or a lesson in Mongolian throat singing, if that's more your thing.)
Google Global Impact Challenge Winner, Pennies, gives consumers the option to donate a few pennies of electronic change with a single click, bringing back the habit of dropping coins into a charity box. Over three years Pennies is planning on establishing a mobile channel to expand its services, and to raise £7 million for UK charities. Imagine that in pennies...
In 2012 War Child launched a project aimed at improving the quality of teaching and children’s learning in South Sudan. Teachers are provided with tablets with up-to-date lessons, scholastic packages and exercises that were not dependent on internet connectivity. On a monthly basis, these tablets are updated by supervisors, who also train teachers to make their lessons child-centred, participatory and inclusive. While many digital learning projects require regular internet access, this approach recognises the lack of digital infrastructure and is therefore replicable in many other places worldwide.
StreetBank is an online network of people who share stuff with their neighbours. According to Carrie Lloyd, blogging in the Huffington Post, Streetbank is “possibly the only social network site that actually makes us sociable”. In 2012 Streetbank was awarded funding of £45,000 by Nesta and they currently have 23,000 users.
What are your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Inspired to do something yourself? Read more about how to start a charity.