Tech Cocktail is very fortunate to get to meet and work with so many amazing companies and groups. And one of the organizations we're privileged to work with on our SXSW event is Applications For Good (A4G), a project that is leveraging the power of the crowd to create applications that serve public purpose. A4G is produced by the Social Innovation Lab (SIL) of One Economy Corporation, a global non-profit organization that leverages the power of technology and connects underserved communities around the world to vital information.
Arthur Grau, Co-founder and Community Manager at A4G, took time to answer some questions we had about the project. Grau has been working in media, community building, and the arts for the better part of 20 years and he loves “geeking out on form and function from tablet apps to antique hand tools.”
TC: Hi Arthur, please tell our audience a little about Applications For Good. What inspired the program?
AG: We believe people can do well and do good at the same time. We are engaging developers and designers to work on some of the toughest problems facing people today because we believe mobile, gaming and social internet technology can really help people live better lives. Applications for Good is inspired by results from our One Economy Internet networks that show a high level of connectivity from Internet enabled devices other than computers such as phones and gaming consoles. Additional research supports that low to moderate income people in this country are the fastest growing numbers of people accessing the web through their phones. As an extension of our media work to date, we aim to meet our constituents where they are in new and entertaining ways.
TC: Applications For Good is announcing a contest at SXSW this year – can you tell us about it?
AG: One Economy and AT&T are co-sponsoring $50,000 in prizes to developers who create applications that help people. We've recognized four primary need areas: jobs, banking, health and education and our sponsors have agreed. With their support we are signing additional partners to support four local code-a-thons happening in Austin, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington DC, that will drive entries and get people all over working on public apps. This has been a collaboration of non-profit and for-profit partnerships to create the next generation of public purpose applications. We believe with this kind of seed or finishing money we will generate both marketable and non-profit solutions to problems and launch great apps.
TC: Can you tell us a little about the apps you are producing and what you expect from “the power of the crowd”?
So far we've produced a tax calculator app, an emergency response app and have our hands in a number of apps being produced by “the crowd”. These are developers who have products that can be altered slightly to serve a public purpose, or new developers who are looking to make a splash in the market. Without giving away the farm, we've embarked on a wellness app that helps you achieve goals, a Facebook app designed to help young people in the job market and a men's health app.
TC: You've mentioned establishing a new genre of “Public Purpose” amongst developers and in app stores. What is your vision for that?
AG: Though there are many app stores that have categories for education or productivity, we think public purpose as a meta category is emerging as more public data becomes open and the barrier to entry for creating apps declines. Though the category may take names other than “public purpose” the time is here for the genre to be established. There are many other players here in the field, and together we can ensure that applications are vetted for their actual benefits to people. They could then be categorized as public purrpose.
TC: Who is your typical Applications For Good developer and how will you build a relationship with them?
AG: I really think people want to leave the world a better place. The people that come to play with Applications for Good can come from any background, researchers, designers, developers, innovators or entrepreneurs. (There are ways to make money and still do good.) Our role is to curate and present the challenges facing communities in the One Economy network and in our partner NPO's or government allies in a no-walls forum where we then help groups to form around specific needs or specific solutions through incentives like contests and ongoing relationship building. Once the relationship is established our job is to tell the story, game the connections to get them on their way to becoming sustainable, certified, public purpose apps.
TC: How can our Tech Cocktail audience get involved in your efforts?
AG: The Tech Cocktail mixer events are a great place to meet the best of creative and tech in one room. I would be willing to bet that just the talent in one Tech Cocktail event, if organized to do good, would produce some game changing applications! Folks can participate with us, or any of our “Appsters” directly through Applications for Good. Check out the needs, join a team, or start one of their own.
If you're in Austin this week, make sure you stop by the Applications for Good table at the Tech Cocktail SXSW Accelerator Kickoff on Sunday, March 13th. (Note – we didn't pay Arthur to say such kind words about our events, but we'll take it! ;)
Disclosure: In accordance to the FTC Guidelines, we are disclosing that ApplicationsForGood is a paid sponsor of Tech Cocktail.