Life Apps

Around the developing world software programmers are now writing world class ‘apps’ (mobile phone applications) to make money and help the poor.

In Brazil there are now more cellphones than people. In India, farmers in remote villages use apps to check farm prices. In Kenya, Ushahidi, a now famous app, helped track and prevent outbreaks of violence during the 2007 post-election troubles, while the iCow app is now helping to develop an organic beef market. Other apps have been developed to allow people without bank accounts to pay bills, and enable doctors to diagnose illnesses and speedily prescribe drugs to treat them in previously inaccessible communities.

Many of the world’s most talented young computer programmers are now based in cities like Nairobi, Hyderabad or Rio de Janeiro. They live and work in ‘cappuccino culture’ hotspots, techie clusters – where they gather to incubate new ideas with friends and colleagues. Many are driven by a powerful belief that communications technology can deliver social change. For our groundbreaking new series we asked five of them to leave the bright lights, and get out among the poor and marginalized to see what they wanted and needed – and then create ‘Life Apps’ for a better, more sustainable world.