If the crowd will save us, and armies of developers working for good will truly save us from ourselves, then in the meantime we’re going to need better curators and story tellers to find the nuggets in the crowd and point us in the right direction.
Case in point: Nokia’s mobile application developer community, Forum Nokia, recently launched the contest Calling All Innovators and asked participants to “think in new ways about the opportunity to affect the quality of human life with mobile applications.” So, beyond just gaming and fleeting social connections to the deeper human experience. The “eco challenge” category served up nothing terribly new or that have not been presented before: GreenDrive’s fuel efficiency and route mapping application, Ticketek’s mobile ticketing concept (saves paper!), the Green Phone battery efficiency app, and the TigerMap restaurant recommender, and public transportation promoter.
But the truly world changing ideas were found in the emerging markets category:
An application called “Nano Ganesh” by developer Santosh Ostwal provides a way for farmers in India to remotely start their water pumps, deployed on the commonly used Nokia 1100, and relying on the basic voice call feature rather than the less reliable SMS. This is a critical benefit to farmers who suffer frequent power cuts and find it difficult to get enough power to irrigate the land for seasonal crops.
The other Emerging Markets finalist was DigitalICS, a concept from Yael Schwartzman, on the graduate staff of UC Berkeley. DigitalICS enables agricultural co-ops to evaluate the growing practices of their fellow members, uploading the data to a website for reporting and analysis, and to verify adherence to standards such as Fair Trade and Certified Organic. A grassroots Dole Organic, with much greater outcome than a friendly marketing message. If deployed correctly this app will encourage growers to work together in true co-op fashion in order to adhere to standards. The app is currently in use by the Oaxacan State Coffee Producers Network in Mexico. What I like about this app is that it connects emerging markets to developing markets in a way that drives reciprocal value – the co-ops improve their conditions, and the people supporting the co-ops could ultimately have greater transparency into the food making process.