KenyaA start-up company located in Kenya called Flare has created an app that allows its users to be connected to the nearest possible responders in the event of an emergency. “The response time of an ambulance is typically 162 minutes. With our app, it has dropped down to 15-20 minutes,” said co-founder Caitlin Dolkart to BBC News.

In places like the U.S., one can dial 911 and expect to receive help within a reasonable amount of time. In places like Nairobi, there are fifty different numbers available to call for emergency services, some of which remain unanswered because of the swarm of prank calls flooding the lines. Emergency services in Kenya cannot reach people in need if they are simply unable to be connected.

Flare connects a person in an emergency to a responder, who then uses one of the many tools available to track and locate the appropriate services nearest to the emergency. Responders have access to over fifty hospitals that have registered with Flare, as well as the option to choose the most suitable vehicle depending on equipment on board and the expertise of the staff. While emergency service numbers are still relevant, they’re not always as quick or successful as Flare has proven to be.

Flare has revolutionized emergency services in Kenya by putting people first with the following innovations:

  • Live traffic
    By using Google Maps, dispatchers tell drivers the quickest route to an emergency facility around traffic jams.
  • Hydrant mapping
    By locating and recording where functional fire hydrants are, fire agencies can save valuable time.
  • Staggering shift changes
    As Dolkart said to BBC News, “We learned there is a lack of ambulances between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. due to shift handovers.” Staggering the shift changes for ambulance companies makes sure there are always some ambulances available.

The creators of Flare saw where the emergency services in Kenya were failing people and decided to create something that would improve the system’s flaws. There have been countless lives that have been saved due to police arriving on time, ambulances reaching an injured person and a facility within half an hour and plenty more. With emergency services improving so much in Nairobi, Kenya, one can only hope that this app can expand to more places where this problem still persists.

– Irimar Waters

Photo: Flickr

end child marriage

It is entirely possible to end child marriage in the coming decades. Ending child marriage will also lead to more prosperous and responsible communities that are capable of overcoming global challenges, such as poverty.

Adolescence is a critical time that should allow girls opportunities to learn, grow, and decide their futures. However, that will not be the fate of more than 700 million girls who are alive today that were forced into marriage before they were 18.

For these girls, their marriage effectively ended their potential to contribute to their community, interrupted their schooling, and placed them at increased risk of severe domestic violence.

Every day, 37,000 girls under the age of 18 are forced into child marriage worldwide. One in three are in India. There have been many efforts to end child marriage in India, and the country has seen quality achievements. Government programs have been able to reduce child marriage from 47% in 2006 to 27% in 2016. This number is still alarmingly high.

The national and state governments, along with United Nations agencies and civil society organizations, are implementing new initiatives to right the social evils of child marriage and gender inequality. In Bihar, the chief minister himself is steering the launch of a statewide campaign against the deep-rooted harmful practices of child marriage.

In support of Bihar’s upcoming campaign, Gender Alliance — a network of 234 like-minded civil society organizations in the state —launched a high-tech tool to end child marriage in the form of a mobile application called Bandhan Tod, which means “break your shackles.”

Bandhan Tod launched in September 2017 and is available on the Google Playstore. The app has many unique features that will help girls stand up against child marriage. Bandhan Tod is a holistic solution for addressing the interlinked issues that perpetuate child marriage. The app offers free education on child marriage and the laws against it, inspirational messages to boost confidence and information on government programs that provide support and opportunities for gender empowerment.

The app also features an SOS button that instantly notifies the entire network of Gender Alliance members when a girl needs urgent help to stop a child marriage.

In order to evaluate the app’s success, Bandhan Tod’s design includes features to measure outreach, impact and changes in knowledge through automatic mapping of geographical location, age, and gender. This feature does not compromise confidentiality and will ultimately advance the ability of the app to contribute in large part to the programs working to end child marriage.

Bandhan Tod received a little over 1,000 downloads in the first week after its launch. Engagement within the app is also a huge success: “the average time spent on the app from people is generally around 7 minutes per session with an average of 100 sessions daily,” Nadeem Noor, head of United Nations Population Fund in Bihar, told The Borgen Project. “The data from the initial few days indicate that the app can be used successfully to reach end users and spread the required message.”

This app has the potential to be an indispensable tool in the struggle for gender equality and in ending all forms of discrimination against women. As part of a larger initiative, the Gender Alliance will “embark upon taking this app to front line functionaries of government departments who have a primary role in addressing the issue” Noor said.

Additionally, the Gender Alliance is working to connect the SOS function directly to the Women Police set-up in Bihar to increase their capacities on counseling the families and implementing the laws against child marriage.

Bandhan Tod was created with the needs of adolescent girls in mind. Providing young girls with basic awareness on women issues and the effects of child marriage is absolutely imperative.

In addition to offering rational, effective and quick systems that are responsive to citizens in their times of need, the initiative is working to make institutions of governance more responsive and accountable. The strides that Bandhan Tod has made thus far towards the fight to end child marriage is astounding.

Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr

Crowdfunding App for Refugees

EdSeed, a new crowdfunding app for refugees, connects education facilities, donors and displaced university students on mobile phones. The app offers refugee students an opportunity to raise the money they need to attend an acclaimed university. It also provides an accessible and reliable method for people and corporations to donate to refugees in a way that will help them become self-reliant.

There is an estimation that, of the 65 million refugees in the world, only 1 percent have access to higher education. At least 200,000 Syrians had their post-secondary education interrupted when they had to flee their home country. No longer on the path to a degree, most of these previous students now find themselves struggling economically in a world that values educated workers.

The app gives students a social media-style profile where they supply details such as degree, university, career aspirations, past academic performance and personalized videos and pictures. Donors can filter their search to find the type of students they wish to support. Individuals can choose between $10 to $100 donations, while corporations can donate from $10,000.

Students can share their edSeed profiles on other social media sites, and the app will also campaign for specific profiles monthly who aren’t receiving as much attention. The students can also monitor their funding process and amounts.

EdSeed partners with universities and scholarship foundations who will verify student profiles and will receive the funds directly, providing a trustworthy platform for donors. The app hopes to raise 6,000 scholarships within three years.

Since its start in April, 500 students have already signed up and 12,000 individual and 3 corporate donors have expressed interest. However, edSeed hopes to accelerate its growth to handle more traffic.

EdSeed hopes to expand beyond higher education and provide funding for apprenticeships, mentoring organizations and other types of degrees that will provide refugees with a quicker route to economic independence. This crowdfunding app for refugees is on its way to help thousands of students worldwide.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr

Female Genital MutilationIn 2017, five female Kenyan students created i-Cut, a female genital mutilation protection app that provides medical and legal assistance for girls who will or have gone through genital mutilation (FGM), a process where the outer part of the genitals are either partially or completely cut off.

The creators of the female genital mutilation app are Ivy Akinyi, Stacy Owino, Cynthia Otieno, Mascrine Atieno and Purity Achieng, who refer to themselves as the Restorers. According to CNN, Dorcas Adhiambo Owino was the girls’ mentor on the project.

The female genital mutilation protection app i-Cut, as explained in Ebony, has five options: “”help”, “rescue”, “report”, “information on FGM” and “donate and feedback”.” “Help” alerts the authorities when FGM is about to occur, and “Rescue” gives young women information about places to receive medical treatment after FGM. “Report” informs the authorities that an instance of FGM has occurred.

Although FGM is illegal in Kenya, it is still heavily practiced, with one in five girls experiencing it. According to Mashable, FGM is seen as a rite of passage in many communities, preparing young women for marriage and purportedly discouraging premarital sex. These traditions are commonly found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Unfortunately, girls experience many challenges after FGM. According to Mashable, young girls are often unable to go to school, which prevents many of them from being employed. There is also a connection between girls who become young wives and mothers and FGM. Worse still, many girls die as a result of the process.

The creators of the female genital mutilation app have a personal connection with FGM: even though their tribe is opposed to the practice, a friend of theirs from school went through it. The friend, as they explained to Reuters, was intelligent, but dropped out of school after the procedure was done. The app is meant to combat situations like this.

i-Cut is currently one of the technological innovations competing for the Technovation Challenge award of $15,000, and is the only African country represented this year. “Sponsored by Google, Salesforce and Adobe, Technovation challenges girls aged 10-18 to create an app that solves problems faced by their communities,” according to CNN.

Regardless of whether or not they receive the prize, the young inventors of the female genital mutilation protection app are content that the app gives young girls a way “to decide their own destinies.”

Cortney Rowe

Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Poverty in UgandaInnovative technological developments are supporting communities and changing lives in Uganda, a country home to one of the youngest and most quickly growing populations in the world. One such advancement is the Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) app – created by the Grameen Foundation – designed to combat agricultural poverty in Uganda.

About 86 percent of Ugandans are farmers of minuscule plots of land and most work by hand, with access to only the most preliminary tools. Poor access to information on rainfall – combined with viruses and parasites that can devastate crop production – has left the country’s dominant agricultural community vulnerable to poverty and famine. Approximately 33 percent of Ugandan children, including those in the lush hills where much of the cultivation takes place, are starving.

Bolstered by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CKW has been developed in response to the endemic problems in Uganda’s agricultural sector. It works in two ways: by building ties with communities through a physical presence (40 “knowledge workers” have been hired during the trial run) and through an app, which provides community leaders with the information needed for a successful harvest.

Results so far have been excellent. Mary, one of the community leaders who uses the app, now has access to weather reports, data on the best market price for her produce as well as “Almanac,” a farmer’s encyclopaedia. Her banana patch, formerly rife with worms, has been turned around. She can then subsequently use the CKW app to work out the best location, time and price in order to sell her produce.

CKW’s success can be attributed to its recognition of how to most simply solve the problem of agricultural poverty in Uganda. Women are the heaviest users of the service, giving them an invaluable lifeline as they struggle to balance child rearing with farming.

The widespread use of cell phones is also a demonstration of how readily accessible this kind of technology can be even in the most remote places; shockingly, more people have access to cell phones than toilets in Africa.

The Grameen foundation has treated this dispersal of the project in Uganda as a trial run. Plans to expand in the future have the potential to alleviate poverty for farmers across the continent and beyond.

Jonathan Riddick

Photo: Flickr

Helping RefugeesToday, web and cellphone apps are being used by billions of people around the world. With so many applications being free there is an increased number of people who can access them. Today new apps are being created in order to help those who are in distress, such as refugees. Here is a list of just three new apps of this year that are helping refugees translate, gain access to information and connect with their families.

Tarjimly is a new translator app that connects volunteer translators to people, such as refugees or immigrants, who need translations in real-time for medical or legal purposes. Tarjimly acts as a Facebook messenger bot connecting an immigrant or refugee to a translator in an anonymous conversation. This app just recently launched in February of this year and already has more than 2,000 translators signed up.

Arrived is another app that is helping refugees gain quick access to information. Called “the hub of immigrant information,” this app is free and is available on Apple and Android phones. One of the things the app provides is the latest news about immigration. This news section also provides analysis of legislative proposals and actions in Washington. Arrived also provides information about deportation processes, English lessons and a study guide for citizenship tests. There is a section of answered questions that are most common that have been researched and a map to show law clinics and sanctuary cities in the U.S.

RedadAlertas is a web app that has not been released yet but will be arriving soon. Created by Celso Mireles who was previously an undocumented immigrant, this app delivers alerts about what is happening in different areas. Notifications about areas that have ICE raids, checkpoints or any type of confrontation will be sent out to its users. The app will work through crowdsourcing, which relies on people at scenes of an area to verify and provide details about what is happening. RedadAlertas hopes to help vulnerable immigrants in risk areas while also allowing legal aid groups, community organizations or activists to help immigrants.

These apps are helping refugees and immigrants around the world. These apps are versatile and all free so that they can be accessible to all users. By providing access to information, translators and up to date notifications these apps are allowing refugees and immigrants to get the help they may need.

Deanna Wetmore
Photo: Flickr

Mall for Africa
Mall for Africa is a patent-pending app, payment system, web service and platform that allows people from African nations to buy from U.S.- and U.K.-based e-commerce sites. This opens up local populations in Africa to products and stores they might not have access to otherwise. The app and site provide secure logins, delivery and accept local payment methods. Since its inception, Mall for Africa has joined forces with other companies and expanded its brand to give African shoppers even more options.

Chris Folayan is the CEO and founder of Mall for Africa. While studying for a business degree in marketing at San Jose State University, his family in Nigeria would send him detailed lists of things they wanted him to bring them when he visited. He started the business after he couldn’t board a plane because he had too much luggage with him. He recognized the demand and developed an app to bridge the gap.

The company works by shipping through the app and absorbing all the risks U.S. and U.K. e-retailers are wary of. The app takes care of payments in various currencies, security concerns and fraud, charge-backs, delivery confirmations and customs clearing. As a result, popular companies and brands —Amazon, eBay, Macy’s, Apple, Zara just to name a few—are now shipping to African countries.

Additionally, individuals can use the app for more than entertainment and commodities. In an interview with How We Made It In Africa, Folayan explains that it is also a tool of empowerment for the African people. It is how some schools get textbooks, computers and other supplies necessary for the academic year. Hospitals have ordered equipment that used to be unavailable to them. People have even started their own businesses now that they can gather the items they need.

Folayan went on to say that international brands are recognizing that the African consumer base is invaluable. This puts these consumers in a position to request stores to stock African brands. If this becomes the case, African designers will be able to use Mall for Africa to sell their goods abroad.

Since its humble beginnings in 2012, Mall for Africa has grown exponentially. GroceryDirect and FashionDirect connect African consumers to even more products and goods. These services are both powered by Mall for Africa. Even with these expansions, Folayan sees room for improvement in the app. Currently, it is available to people living in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. However, the founder hopes to include other countries in the future.

Jada Haynes

Photo: Google

Richie Sambora is not just known as the guitarist of the band Bon Jovi from 1983 to 2013, but he is also known for his humanitarian work, now including being the co-founder of Csnaps, the new humanitarian app that allows celebrities to take pictures with fans and raise money for a charity of the celebrity’s choice.

“Fans are always going to ask their favorite celebrities to take pictures with them,” Sambora said in an interview with People Music. “By using Csnaps, you get a picture with your favorite star and money goes to help good causes and those in need, so it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Charities must register with to be eligible for donation. Among the registered charities are The Humane Society, PETA, Smile Train, and the ALS Association.

The app also benefits publicists and celebrities, who can break news about their clients on Csnaps and have the media purchase it. Not only does this raise money for a charity their clients care about, but it allows the publicist to control what is said about their client, and the client gets new followers and good publicity.

So how does it work? A fan approaches a celebrity and asks for a selfie. Using the catchphrase, “Csnaps only please,” the celebrity will take a selfie with the fan through the app, and for a minimum of three dollars, 80 percent of which goes to a charity of the celebrity’s choice, the fan has their picture and a sense of contentment knowing that they have helped save a life, or make someone’s life better.

Csnaps is available on iTunes now, but no plans have been announced for it to be on any other platforms. Hopefully after witnessing Csnaps’ impact, other charities and platforms will join in on the goodwill.

Kelsey Alexis Jackson

Photo: Flickr

5 Calls App Makes Congressional Communication EasySince the results of the 2016 election, many people have been looking for ways to productively communicate their political positions. 5 Calls, a new nonprofit app and website created by a group of volunteers, provides an efficient pathway for contacting senators and representatives. Contacting Congress can be extremely influential in encouraging or preventing specific policy and legislation. The 5 Calls app makes congressional communication easy and provides a step-by-step guide to getting the most out of a call.

Activists of all stripes encourage the act of calling legislators, rather than emailing or ranting on social media. Congressional offices across the country tally the issues that are brought to them by the people in their district. These numbers are reported directly to representatives, making them aware of the issues that their constituents are passionate about. As stated on The Borgen Project website, “It’s not uncommon for a leader to support a poverty-reduction bill after as few as seven to 10 people call in support of it.”

The app’s website draws users in with, “Turn your passive participation into active resistance. Facebook likes and Twitter retweets don’t create the change you want to see.” Not only is the site’s strategy effective, but the 5 Calls app makes congressional communication easy.

Users enter their zip codes and receive their representatives’ names and phone numbers. Users can pick certain issues that they are passionate about, and are provided with a short and effective script specific to the issue that they selected. For example, some issues currently listed on the website include: “Keep Funding for ‘The Wall’ Out of the Budget,” “Demand Congress Support Healthcare for All,” “Urge Congress to Grant Asylum to Syrian Refugees,” “Keep the National Institute of Health Funded,” and “Ban the Use of a Brain-Damaging Pesticide.” The website also provides a summary of the issue’s context, explaining why it is relevant and why constituent calls are necessary.

The 5 Calls app makes congressional communication easy by providing phone numbers for representatives and senators based on a user’s zip code. The site is simple, aesthetically pleasing and effective. The 5 Calls app reports that users have made more than a million calls through the app. The site is run fully by volunteers, and all donations go to data updates and hosting the site. The app also offers an email alert option, which reminds users to stay involved and keeps them updated on current issues.

The 5 Calls app makes congressional communications easy, so there are no excuses for not advocating for personal political preferences. Calling Congress can make a difference, and apps like 5 Calls are paving a way for involvement and advocacy.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Photo: Flickr

LocationTwelve-year-old Nigerian girl Tomisin Ogunnubi recently created the My Locator app for Android to help lost children find their way home.

The free app comes with a ‘current location’ setting that shows users their location and nearby streets. Users can also use the app to save a location, such as their house or school, and get directions to the saved location.

The My Locator app also comes with an ‘alert’ button that calls state emergency services in Lagos and shows emergency responders the child’s location. Ogunnubi created the My Locator app under the guidance of her school, Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls.

More than 30,000 children in Nigeria are separated from their parents or lost due to unrest caused by Boko Haram. More than two million people across the country have been internally displaced by the conflict.

Boko Haram began militant operations in Nigeria in 2009 in an attempt to create an Islamic state. The group has created unrest in Nigeria and neighboring countries with bombings, abductions and assassinations.

Boko Haram caught international attention in April of 2014 when the group kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a secondary school in the town of Chibok. Two thousand more children may remain in Boko Haram’s custody, according to Amnesty International.

Children who are separated from their parents or orphaned must resort to any method they can to survive, such as begging or prostitution. They face many dangers, including being abducted by Boko Haram, forced into labor or being sexually abused.

Girls are especially at risk for sexual abuse and forced marriage. Even if they find care with a relative or foster parent, their caretaker may marry them off in exchange for money. While aid workers may try to reunite lost children with their families, this could take months. Children’s relatives may be dispersed across different states in Nigeria or be one among thousands in crowded refugee camps.

Although the situation caused by Boko Haram may make it unsafe for children to return to their homes, the My Locator app has the potential to help children find their way to a space that is safer than their present location, such as a refugee camp or nearby town. When crises are so dire that humanitarian aid becomes scared, technology can serve to help those in need.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr