Mobile App for Social Activism

There are several types of mobile applications for social activism, but I was particularly interested in two types of them. The first: Apps that demand little from the user, but provide money to causes via advertising. One of my favorites is Sproutster, which uses the Free Rice model. Users essentially play a game, during which they are exposed to advertising. Those add dollars are what goes to these causes. Interestingly, how well you do in the game theoretically affects how much is donated.

Now, I know these types of apps don’t necessarily lobby for a social change. But I’m more interested in the model of asking little from the user. Is this effective? Also, sometimes I wonder how these apps would do if they weren’t linked to social activism, but just marketed as regular apps. Would users play more? Would advertisers pay as much? (Image from iTunes store.)

The other type of app that intrigued me has to do with the accessibility of information. The Android app called Congress does an impressive job making Congressional information very easily accessible. In fact, recent bills and contact information is easier to find with this app than on a computer! (Image from Android Market.)

As an everyday person, it’s difficult to keep track of what bills are going through Congress. We often rely on the media to do that work — and they don’t always catch the bills that have big impacts on us. This app ensures that more people have eyes on the bulls going through Congress, which allows for a more thorough watchdog filter. But perhaps more importantly, this office tries to keep our reps accountable by making voting records and contact information readily available. In a previous life, I’ve had to call 20 Congressmen in one day — and it’s hard! This app makes that process easier. But, more importantly, I think this app reminds people that our reps are people we can talk to — and it shows people that Congress isn’t just some blob of incompetent power, but they are individuals who (are supposed to) represent us.

The Congress app is a prime example of how a re-organization of information can make it more powerful for activists. While all of this information is available online, this just makes it so easy that it helps many people overcome the laziness/time barrier of actually mining out this info.

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