Amidst the many informative talks, startup demos, and networking events at this years Web Summit, we had a chance to learn about some inspiring projects focused on engaging people to improve society in the domains of education, healthcare, civics or environment. It’s arguably one of the most exciting times to work in software when our prefered modern web and mobile technologies are being put to such excellent use, one app at a time.
Where the Tech World Meets
This year’s immense Web Summit saw 42,000 people attending from 134 countries at the Royal Dublin Society, including over 2000 startups at various funding stages that were exhibiting their latest innovations and success stories. From the hundreds of conference talks in the 21 tracks covering code, design, data, and more, here are some highlights from those in the social good domain.
The Going Green for Social Good Initiative
Together, the U.S. Embassy Dublin and Web Summit launched a juried competition and invited startups with a cause to compete for a chance to receive a spot to speak at Web Summit.
The winner was Michael Kelly of Ireland, and his organization, Grow It Yourself, which is helping school children and employee-groups to grow their own food, so they better understand the food cycle and can make healthier choices.
Today in Ireland alone, Grow It Yourself has launched over 800 community projects and involves around 50,000 people.
Using Social Technology for Accessible Democracy
Matt Mahan and James Windon of the Brigade platform for election advocacy, spoke with journalist Donie O’Sullivan at the conference about their app that is transforming how civic identities and community are expressed. Through their discussions of early experimentation and user testing for their app, they revealed how they created new tools that helped two US cities vote smarter this fall.
"We designed the app to talk about real issues, and people either agree or disagree with statements of belief, and then they get more information," the founders explained. The app was designed by starting with the things that their research said people cared about. The app then gives users various ways to take action and connects them with others passionate about the issues, so they know they're not alone.
Exploring Models for Social Innovation
Representatives of three innovative foundations came together to discuss the ways in which they’re forging new business and marketing plans, hardware and software solutions, to raise money.
Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, spoke about his organization’s work with Google through the ‘Global Impact Awards’ which enabled them to implement a new remote sensor technology to transmit real-time data to their partners telling them whether water was flowing at their well projects in Africa. Their goal of advancing transparency and sustainability in the water sector is now underway, with around 70 sensors currently in operation in Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, Jessica Greenwalt, Co-founder of CrowdMed explained the purpose behind her platform that allows patients to post their symptoms online and get crowd-sourced diagnoses and solutions. Their app puts ‘case-solving teams’ together, comprised of medical professionals and regular folks, which have been shown to outperform the traditional medical system. What Greenwalt says they’ve found is that they can capture the wisdom of patients, who then become good at helping other patients with a similar illness. Rather than remaining isolated, the sufferers of rare illness can use her platform to connect and share knowledge. Their biggest challenges are getting people to accept the new paradigm of taking advice from untraditional experts, as well as getting the necessary funding. To mitigate the financial barrier, CrowdMed helps patients to crowd-fund.
John Fitzsimons, CEO of Camara Education, an organization that uses technology to improve education in disadvantaged communities spoke about how they use E-learning portals around the world. For example, they have given 20,000 teachers a tool to use online, in Ethiopia, and other emergent economies in Africa. Their main challenge today remains funding, and Fitzsimons said they are increasingly expecting to acquire sustainable engagement from the corporate sector and tech companies, and not just from taxpayers and state funding.
Rangle’s Growing Contribution to Open Source and Social Good Projects
Our latest efforts include the creation of the new open source Batarangle tool with Google for Angular 2, and our exciting collaboration on the Break Poverty Hackathon with Devs Beyond Borders, taking place at our office on Nov. 20th. This will be an event where teams made up of developers in Nairobi and Toronto will produce apps that tackle issues in the areas of access to education, optimal agricultural or domestic violence.