www.washingtonpost.com. April, 2, 2012 – How many of the hundreds of thousands of mobile phone applications seek to do truly great things, such as lift people out of poverty or improve health care for the poor?
The App Economy, to date, has largely touched the lives of those living in the developed world. This is due, in part, to the high cost of smart phones but also because app development has lacked real vision and purpose. I have found that Silicon Valley, generally speaking, doesn’t build apps to save the world or lift people out of poverty. It builds them to sell Angry Bird t-shirts and generate lots of virtual currency.
The folks at Centro de Innovación in Santiago, Chile, aim to change that.
I met Julian Ugarte, an Industrial designer, and his team during a recent trip to South America, and I was blown away by what they are trying to do. On March 22, Ugarte and Centro de Innovación launched a contest with Movistar — a mobile subsidiary of Telefonica — and TechoLab, a non-profit subsidiary of Un Techo para mi País (UTPMP) — a pan-Latin American NGO that dispatches youth volunteers on projects to eradicate the extreme poverty that affects tens of millions in Latin America. A $10,000 prize will be given to each of the creators of the best three apps that address problems facing the millions of people living at the bottom of the pyramid (BoP).
The World Bank Institute. March 22, 2012
India, Brazil, and South Africa share common development patterns, economically, socially, and politically, and together can not only learn from each others’ successes and challenges, but also become major players in the geo-political space.
While Brazil has already achieved a high level of urbanization, tested different policies and approaches to address the slum challenge, and therefore can share many lessons of what has worked, what did not work, and why, it still struggles to address the extreme inequality between its rich and poor; it still has 44 million people living with inadequate urban housing or utilities.
India is one of the most rapidly growing economies in the world and has a large urban population although its urbanization level is relatively low. Faced with the challenge of improving the governance framework and service levels in cities, India has formulated groundbreaking urban policies in the last decade but despite these initiatives, its almost 93 million people living in slums will probably double in the next twenty years.
South Africa has made significant progress in designing progressive policies and intergovernmental fiscal transfer systems to address apartheid’s legacy of inequality. Although South Africa has delivered formal housing to 3 million households since the fall of apartheid, it recognizes that there is a lot still to be done to address the challenge of nearly 12 million people living in shacks or precarious shelters.