Mobile Innovations for Social Good

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 07/23/2009 - 8:44am

Amy Sample Ward, NetSquared

Recently, over 300 innovators and changemakers interested in the intersection of technology and social benefit work converged for a few days of idea-sharing, learning, and collaboration at NetSquared's annual conference. The 2009 N2Y4 Conference showcased the Featured Projects from NetSquared's Global Challenge focused on mobile technology. There were 14 great teams pitching their Projects at the Conference, but only 3 voted as prize winners.  Who are they and what are they working on? Find out!

VozMob: Mobile Voices/Voces Moviles
Third Place: $10,000

Marginalized populations lack access to digital technology yet aspire to participate meaningfully in the digital public sphere. Mobile Voices offers an open-source multi-media platform optimized for low-cost mobile phones that lets users create, share, and reflect on stories about their lives and communities. An academic-community partnership, the project brings together immigrant day laborers, scholars, software developers, and community organizers for participatory design, curriculum development, evaluation and research around this emerging media tool and its social impact.

The Extraordinaries -- On-demand crowdsourcing volunteerism via smartphones
Second Place: $15,000

The Extraordinaries is smartphone software (iPhone, Blackberry, and more) that allows millions of people to perform brief micro-volunteer tasks on their smartphones in a few minutes of spare time. People login to our system from any place on Earth within cell reception, and constructively use small windows of spare time for science, medicine, nonprofits, government, and more. Tasks are accessed on-demand, from anywhere, at any time -- while riding the bus, waiting in the doctor’s office, standing in line at the post office, and more.

FrontlineSMS:Medic - SMS for Medical Records and Mobile Lab Diagnostics
First Place: $25,000

FrontlineSMS:Medic helps coordinate health workers using FrontlineSMS, a free software platform enabling large-scale, two-way text messaging using a laptop, mobile phones, and a GSM signal. The team is also building modules on top of this core platform that will compress data into text messages to send electronic medical records, create real-time maps to visualize health programs, and connect clinics to a revolutionary mobile phone-based diagnostic tool. At clinics that serve about 1.2 million patients in Malawi and Uganda, they've seen that text messages and cheap mobile phones are great tools on the front-lines of global health.

We talked to Isaac Holeman, R&D Director for FrontlineSMS:Medic for some updates from the N2Y4 Mobile Challenge first prize team:

What can you look forward to soon from FrontlineSMS:Medic?

We have a lot going on in many different places. If you're interested in updates from the field this summer you can follow Nadim, who is already in Mexico, Josh and Lucky who are just leaving for Malawi, or my blog, where I will be writing about work in Malawi and throughout East Africa for the next year. Of course a selection of these updates will be aggregated on the team blog. We should also be getting a new website to showcase our work very soon. 

Now that the Challenge is over, what are your big milestones and goals?

Although the core FrontlineSMS platform is well polished, getting working beta builds of each of our modules (medical records, mapping, diagnostics) is a pretty substantial milestone. Actually using these modules in the field is another big step for us. Finally, we're working on several studies that we hope to publish in the next year or two. There haven't been many controlled studies in mHealth, especially regarding clinical outcomes (not just process or program efficiency/cost savings), so publishing any of this work would be a big milestone.

The Process

The N2Y4 Mobile Challenge called for innovative mobile applications supporting social good.  There were many excellent ideas (check out the Project Gallery!) and the top 15 Featured Projects were selected through a Community Vote. Those Featured Projects came together May 26-27, 2009 in San Jose, CA, at the N2Y4 Conference to pitch their ideas, find collaborators, and get valuable feedback.  The N2Y4 Conference attendees voted to select the 3 Winning Projects.  Learn more about the Net2 Challenge Process here.

About NetSquared

NetSquared is a globally-focused nonprofit organization working at the intersection of technology and social benefit work.  While the NetSquared Team organizes and facilitates ongoing prize-based Open Innovation Challenges, offline monthly events (Net Tuesdays) and a Global Conference to help propel the field forward, the heart of our work is rooted in NetSquared’s Community of social innovators – which includes business leaders, engineers, activists, nonprofit organizations and others - and that Community has developed organically over time.  To learn more about NetSquared or get involved, visit