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I spent much of last week at the NetSquared N2Y4 conference in Silicon Valley. NetSquared brings together social entrepreneurs, whose tech projects compete for funds. Last year, the projects were mashups. This year’s theme was mobile.
There were numerous noteworthy international projects this year. But the top three prizes went to projects serving very different communities.
And the winners are…
First prize winner FrontlineSMS: Medic aims to use mobile phones to help community health workers better serve patients in the developing world. Begun as a year-long pilot project in Malawi, the funding will help adapt FrontlineSMS software for medical use — and bring it to health centers “on several continents.”
FrontlineSMS: Medic also won several of the sponsored prizes associated with NetSquared, netting $45,000 altogether.
The Extraordinaries won second prize. The project brings immediate volunteering to the iPhone. It has has released a native iPhone application that allows volunteers to complete tasks on their phone: tagging photos, translating text, and so forth. The project intends to use the funds for the increased testing that they need to expand the sorts of activities that they can support.
VozMob: Mobile Voices/Voces Moviles, the third prize winner, is a community journalism project. It enables day laborers in Los Angeles to document their lives with text and photographs, using cell phone MMS messages.
A number of projects won other competition prizes at NetSquared, funded by various corporate and foundation sponsors.
Cooperation was the big winner
But everybody at the conference benefitted from the collaborative spirit of the competition.
- Three projects (including the winner), proposed using FrontlineSMS software for their cell phone SMS communication. FrontlineSMS had previously received funding from the Hewlett and MacArthur Foundations and the Open Society Institute. Those grantors should be pleased by the software’s adoption. You can read more about the FrontlineSMS project on my personal blog.
- As I wrote over the weekend, other projects teamed up to solve their mapping needs.
In the end, social problems are bigger than any one of us, so it’s great to see a competition that brings that sort of altruistic thinking out in its participants. That kind of cooperation makes NetSquared one of the highlights of my year.