April 24, 2013

Q&A with Iris Lapinski, CEO, CDI Apps for Good

Posted by: in North America

While researching our latest report, “13 Mobile Trends for 2013 and Beyond,” we spoke with Iris Lapinski of U.K.-based CDI Apps for Good, a nonprofit focused on teaching teenagers to create apps that solve problems they care about and can help to change their world. Founded in 2009, Apps for Good has grown to 100 schools and 5,000-plus 11-18 year-olds across the U.K. In 2012, the Observer and nonprofit innovation charity Nesta named Lapinski one of Britain’s “50 New Radicals” for her work with Apps for Good. She discussed how mobile apps can be a force for social change, Gen Z’s attitude toward mobile technology and why apps and tech are “the new rock & roll.”

Can you explain a little more about Apps for Good?

What we’re trying to do is to democratize app development. We think that real innovation always comes from the fringes of society, it doesn’t come from the people in the middle. So if you only ask white male 35-year-old developers what apps they can come up with, they come up with problems they encounter in their own lives. If you ask 14-year-old Muslim girls, because they have a different perspective on life and different experiences, they will come up with different ideas for apps. That was our working hypothesis when we started, and then the first course we did resulted in one of the three apps for Stop and Search, which is for young people who are being stopped and searched by the police [to understand their rights].

For us, “social good” is problem solving. We take a really broad definition of what is “for good.” It has to be legal, it can’t be purely entertaining or purely commercial, but it can be a game that solves a problem, it can be a commercial app that addresses a problem.

How can mobile apps foster social good?

I went out and explained to people in 2009, you can use apps not for trivial farting apps or commercial things or mapping or whatever it is, but you can actually use mobile technology as a way to flip who has power, how people give feedback to the local authority. You can take it from a different perspective and create something genuinely interesting.

If you look at new technology and adoption in the social sector, there’s a delay, whether it’s the social media, whether it’s the computing. It also has to do with pricing. When new technologies and products launch, they’re expensive. But as costs drop, people start to say, “Well, this would actually be really useful for us, and we could do X, Y, and Z.”

What are some of the inspiring or innovative ways that nonprofits are using mobile apps?

I think apps can transform social relationships. When we run courses, for me, the interesting apps that come out of that are things that really play to the strength of [the mobile device] to address something that goes beyond what you could have addressed before with different technologies.

One example, an app we never built but we did direct the prototyping session, was an app for chronically ill people. The problem was described by one of the community workers we were doing it with who said, “My mom leaves the house, [then] she gives me a call 10 minutes later and says, ‘I’m lost. Can you pick me up?’ I roughly know where she would go at that time of day, so I walk there. But wouldn’t it be great if I can see exactly where she is? And if someone else finds her and says, ‘Do you have a problem?’ she has a screen that can show, ‘This is where I am, and this is my problem. Can you please help me or call whomever?’”

We then extended that to say, for example, if she has an asthma attack and you need to call the ambulance, one of the key things you can’t do is talk, right? You can use GPS, so you don’t need to explain to people where you are; your phone knows where you are. As long as you had, for example, an emergency button you can press and then it automatically dials and you can get help. That is when you can really tap into the full spectrum of what you can do with the technology. On top of that, you have a screen on your phone saying, “I’ve had an asthma attack. Can you please help me with the following few things?” if someone walks past and really doesn’t know what your problem is.

It’s those types of ideas, where you tap into the life experience of people. It’s really thinking through, what can extend service delivery in a way that couldn’t be done before? It’s not an add-on; it’s extending and improving what you’re already doing.

Why does Apps for Good focus on younger teenagers?

The reason why we’re in the 13-, 14-, 15-year-old age range is because we realize people make career choices and make decisions about who they want to become at that age range, which is early teens. That’s when peer groups become essential, when the influence of parents goes down and all institutions are challenged in general, so that was a perfect point for us. When we worked initially with older age groups, they said, “If I had done this when I was still in school, if I’d had exposure to this before, I would not have dropped out of school.” They said, “It would have changed my outlook on life.”

Working closely with Gen Z, what have you learned about their digital habits and preferences?

One big difference is, they don’t make the distinction between digital and offline. It’s just life for them. Whether you’re on Facebook or whether you talk to your friends, whether you use SMS or whether you use an email—which they don’t—it is just communicating. It’s just a different channel. In their mind, it’s not a different thing, it’s just a different mode of engagement.

But that doesn’t mean they know about what is inside the black box. To give an example, I had young people who thought the Internet was Facebook. Why? Because they’re only on Facebook. That’s where they access all their information. So for them, the Internet is equivalent to Facebook. They don’t know the whole technology underpinning the protocols.

Mobile has disrupted the nonprofit sector. What other sectors is it affecting?

Education and health, for example, are the two big sectors that haven’t been completely disrupted by information, and the only reason they haven’t been totally disrupted is because they’re state-regulated. If you look at the music industry, gone. If you look at publishing at the moment, gone. If you look at all sorts of any other industries, banking, totally transformed by information technology. Even now, the role of the doctor is different from what it was 30 years ago.

The same is happening around education and coding. The coding thing is too narrow at the moment, and it’s one of the things we’re pushing on. It’s easy to convince people now just because coding literacy is so low, but there is a massive gap between the demand and the supply of people who actually have decent literacy levels in coding. Once that gap is filled … coding will become commoditized.

In the past, children might have aspired to be an astronaut or a surgeon. Do you think the digital era is reorienting aspirations?

Now, apps and tech is the new rock & roll. If you look at who all the young people aspire to and who they are inspired by, rock & roll still plays a really important role, and sports will always play an important role, but you have people who fuse those things as well. If you look at Will.i.am, he’s mixing technology with music in ways that didn’t exist before.

No Responses to "Q&A with Iris Lapinski, CEO, CDI Apps for Good"

Comment Form

SXSW: Raging Against the Machine

SXSW: How Brands Can Get ‘Circular’ and Why They Must

New Trend Report: The Circular Economy

2014 iPad App

Updates

Sign up for Email Updates

JWT AnxietyIndex

Things to Watch

  • Alternative waters
    August 19, 2014 | 1:59 pm

    Vertical Water

    With the coconut water craze going strong, watch for more variations on H2O thanks to consumer interest in more natural alternatives to soda and openness to novel products. Antioxidant-rich maple water (made from maple sap) is gaining attention, while almond water from the startup Victoria’s Kitchen has secured space at Whole Foods and Target. As the AP reports, there’s also cactus, birch and artichoke water—made from either water extracted from the plant or boiled with the ingredient in question—whose makers tout their vitamin and mineral content, as well as their infection-fighting properties. —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: Vertical Water

  • Smart mannequins
    August 13, 2014 | 5:01 pm

    Iconeme

    One of our Things to Watch in 2014, beacons have been popping up everywhere from airports to restaurants to museums. But the biggest pickup for these devices—low-cost transmitters that use Bluetooth to precisely track consumers’ mobile phones and send targeted content—has been among retailers. Now, British retailers including House of Fraser, Hawes & Curtis and Bentalls are testing mannequins outfitted with VMbeacon technology from the startup Iconeme.

    A “smart mannequin” enables nearby shoppers with a related mobile app to get details about what it’s wearing and how to find the products in the store or buy them online. The big question is whether customers will be motivated to opt in; skeptics say the technology doesn’t yet provide enough real benefit. —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: Iconeme

  • De-teching apps
    August 7, 2014 | 10:55 am

    De-teching—the idea that more people will choose to temporarily log off—was one of our 10 Trends for 2011, and in our 2014 trend Mindful Living, we discussed the idea that digitally immersed consumers will try to use technology more mindfully. Perhaps ironically, several new apps aim to help people do so.

    Moment tracks phone use and alerts users when they reach their self-imposed daily limit. Pause is “designed to help us reconnect with real life”; it encourages people to use Airplane Mode and engage in real-world activities, and attempts to turn this behavior into a game among friends. Finally, Menthal is part of a research project out of Germany that helps users find out, “Are you in control of your smartphone? Or is your smartphone controlling you?” —Marian Berelowitz

  • Intuitive eating
    July 29, 2014 | 5:00 pm

    Veggies

    As spotlighted in our 10 Trends for 2014 report, people are becoming more interested in Mindful Living, including the notion of eating more mindfully. And with consumers showing declining interest in dieting, the idea of “intuitive eating”—paying closer attention to the body’s hunger signals rather than following a strict regimen—has been steadily gaining traction. Recent media mentions include articles in Fitness and New Zealand’s Stuff, and a Refinery 29 writer is blogging about adopting the practice. With a recent analysis of studies finding that intuitive eating can be a successful strategy for people who are overweight or obese, watch for more consumers to embrace this anti-diet philosophy. —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: Theresa Kinsella

  • Chinese mega-cities
    July 24, 2014 | 1:15 pm

    Tianjin

    China, home to the world’s second largest rural population, is expected to add close to 300 million more urbanites by 2030, when Shanghai and Beijing will likely account for two of the world’s Top 5 mega-cities, according to new UN research. “We are observing one of the most significant economic transformations the world has seen: 21st-century China is urbanizing on a scale 100 times that seen in 19th-century Britain and at 10 times the speed,” notes a new McKinsey paper on cities and luxury markets. China’s wealth will be concentrated in these urban areas: Over the next decade, McKinsey expects Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Shenzhen, in addition to Hong Kong, to join the list of “top luxury cities.” —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Jakob Montrasio

  • Brands + Google Glass
    July 15, 2014 | 6:09 pm

    SPG

    As Google Glass makes its way into the hands of more people (last month it became available in the U.K.), brands are experimenting with the new possibilities that the platform affords. In March, Kenneth Cole became the first to launch a marketing campaign—the “Man Up for Mankind Challenge”—through a Glass app. Users were challenged to perform and document good deeds for the chance to win a prize.

    Starwood’s new Glass app, billed as the first such app from the hospitality sector, lets people voice-search its properties, view photos and amenities, get directions and book rooms. An array of other marketers have turned out apps for early adopters, from Sherman Williams’ ColorSnap Glass (easily create a paint chip that mirrors anything in view) to Fidelity (delivers daily market quotes for Glass wearers). —Tony Oblen

    Image credit: SPG

  • Ugly produce
    July 10, 2014 | 2:45 pm

    Intermarche

    Ugly Produce, on our list of 100 Things to Watch in 2014, is proliferating in Europe, thanks in part to government efforts to reduce the 89 million tons of food wasted in Europe each year. In France, Intermarché has been getting buzz for creating a produce section dedicated to “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables”; a whimsical ad campaign reportedly drove a 24 percent rise in store traffic.

    U.K. supermarket Waitrose recently began selling packs of tomatoes that are misshapen or have fallen off the vine naturally. And in Portugal, Fruta Feia (“Ugly Fruit”) is a cooperative launched in late 2013 that sells unsightly produce that would have gone to waste. Per The New York Times, the group already has a waiting list of 1,000 customers. In line with one of our 10 Trends for 2014, Proudly Imperfect, watch for ugly produce to catch on with both retailers and shoppers. —Jessica Vaughn

    Image credit: Intermarché

  • The $1.25 Cube
    July 3, 2014 | 12:30 pm

    As we outline in Immersive Experiences, one of our 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond, entertainment and narratives are becoming more enveloping in a bid to capture consumers’ imagination and attention. An immersive project from JWT Israel, a winner of the Cannes Chimera challenge, aims to help people experience what it’s like to live in extreme poverty. Once it’s created, the cube will create a multisensory experience that uses tools like augmented reality to simulate sights, sounds and smells and elicit certain feelings. Participants can exit only when the person in line behind them inserts $1.25, a metaphor for the collaborative efforts needed to fight poverty. The aim is for the cube to travel to international events like the Davos conference in order to influence global leaders. —Hallie Steiner

    Image credit: JWT Israel

  • Google’s Android Auto
    June 26, 2014 | 3:00 pm

     

    Android

    The connected car is rapidly becoming a reality. Fast 4G LTE connections are turning vehicles into hot spots that come with a data plan, while Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are making their way onto dashboards. This week Google introduced Android Auto, with the first compatible cars expected by year-end. Apple’s similar CarPlay, which turns the car into a platform for an iPhone’s content, was announced in March and is included in new Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo models.

    Car-based app ecosystems will provide relevant info (traffic, maps, vehicle diagnostics, restaurant suggestions) and entertainment, combined with safety precautions like voice control. As we outline in our mobile trends report, connected cars—complete with Internet hot spots, a suite of apps and sensors that communicate—will eventually link up with drivers’ homes, mobile devices and other gadgets to form a seamless system. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Android

  • American Eagle Outfitters’ recycling boxes
    June 19, 2014 | 3:45 pm

    American Eagle

    In a bid to create a more closed-loop production cycle, retailers including Puma and H&M are partnering with I:CO, a Swiss reuse and recycling firm that sets up collection points in stores for used clothing and shoes. The latest retailer to link up with I:CO is American Eagle Outfitters, which has added collection boxes in all its North American stores. Customers who participate in the “Live Your Life. Save Your Planet” initiative get a $5 credit toward AEO jeans. Any proceeds gleaned from the program will be donated to the Student Conservation Association.

    “The vision is for all products to be designed with future uses in mind, so materials can be 100% reused in a truly endless cycle,” explains a post from I:CO on American Eagle’s blog. An array of brands are taking steps toward a similar vision, as detailed in our upcoming report on the circular economy. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: American Eagle Outfitters

  • RSSArchive for Things to Watch »