Apps and hacks for social good (info-philanthropy)

It is nice to begin to see volunteering in more than simply physical ways beginning to be valued and rewarded in Australia.

Apps Aid (image from the Pro Bono Australia article,
App Aid – Developers Unite with Charities For Greater Good)

I’ve just learnt about App Aid, a 48 hour event being held in Australia in September this year, from Pro Bono Australia).

Ten teams of seven (4 app developers and 3 charity representatives) will compete to create apps that make a positive difference to the community. $30,000 in charitable funds is up for grabs as prizes.

The event is being organised and sponsored by the Vodafone Foundation, the charitable wing of Vodafone Australia (who have quite a bit of experience with social media).

Like the Random Hacks of Kindness held last year in Melbourne as part of a global series of events, App Aid represents a new style of involvement in social issues.

Unfortunately, this type of ‘giving back’ isn’t well recognised or supported in Australia as yet.

While the US has a number of foundations committed to ‘information philanthropy’ and ‘hacking for good’, Australia has a big legislative gap in this space.

I’ve looked in detail into setting up charitable foundations for information philanthropy and it’s very hard to do here (Kudos to Open Australia who did indeed set up a foundation for their activities).

In fact the only recommendation by the Gov 2.0 Taskforce that was not taken up by the then Australian Government was about Info-Philanthropy. It was deferred, and subsequently has been ignored by other government reviews.

The lack of interest in this area has even been portrayed in the media as opposition to this type of philanthropy (Federal Government opposes info-philanthrophy) – though I suspect it would be more accurate to say that info-philanthropy hasn’t reached a sufficient awareness threshold for governments to consider acting.

In the absence of support by government, I hope we do see more info-philanthropy from the private sector in Australia.

We don’t just need to feed the hungry and house the homeless but to use technology to do these things and support other charitable and philanthropic activities in an increasingly efficient and effective manner.

Technology, coupled with information, has transformed how industries and governments operate. Ignoring the potential impact on the philanthropic and charitable sector is not only unwise, it is potentially extremely costly.

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