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

New: 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond

The Brazil Opportunity

Updates

Sign up for Email Updates

JWT AnxietyIndex

Blog Authors

Ahmed Mahjoub - Dubai
Marian Berelowitz - New York
Katie Fitzgerald - New York
Davina Wertheimer - Johannesburg
Deanna Zammit - New York
Kimberly Douglas - London
Alexandra Stieber - Atlanta
Susie Uzel - London
Andrew Knight and Jessica Vaughn - New York
Carlos Fernandez - New York
Geri Kan - Singapore
Lindsey Stafford - New York
Maria Orriols - Barcelona
Ceren Coskun - Istanbul
Alex Morrison - New York
Juliana Cubillos and Jessica Vaughn - Bogota and New York
David Linden - Emerging Media
Dylan Viner - New York
Alex Pallete and Ramon Jimenez - Madrid
Russell Martin - Cape Town
Mennah Ibrahim - Beirut
Harsha Prag - Johannesburg
Marian Berelowitz and Maria Orriols - New York
Mariko Kataoka - London
Pam Garcia – Manila
Gonzalo Franseca - Buenos Aires
Andrew Hwang - Emerging Media
Nick Ayala - New York
Hajime Kato - Tokyo
Ann Mack and Jessica Vaughn - New York
Aaron Baar - Chicago
Meghan McCormick - Emerging Media
Andres Colmenares - Bogota
Jordan Price - Tokyo
Christine Miranda - New York
Will Palley - New York
Sigrid Jakob and Rodrigo Maroni - New York
Katie Fitzgerald and Jessica Vaughn - New York
Jessica Vaughn and Sarah Siegel - New York
Vannya Martinez - Mexico City
Alex Brousseau - New York
Thomas McGillick- Sydney
Mollie Hill
Alec Foege - New York
Lina Maria Aguirre - New York
Anil Bharadiya - Singapore
Marian Berelowtiz and Patty Orsini - New York
Sharon Panelo - New York
Deborah Frenkel - Melbourne
Ben Hopkins - London
Marian Berelowitz and Aaron Baar - New York and Chicago
Marina Bortoluzzi - São Paulo
James Richardson - London
katerina
Adrian Barrow - New York
Nina Yiamsamatha - Emerging Media
Ana Hernandes - Sao Paulo
Colette Henry - Dublin
Soh Chin Ong - Singapore
Marian Berelowitz and Nick Ayala - New York
Nina Hammerling Smith - New York
Ken Fujioka - Brazil
Yael Shpiller - Tel Aviv
Megan Foley - New York
Marian Berelowitz and Will Palley - New York
Peta Bassett - Bangkok
Tal Chen - Tel Aviv
Rasika Fernandes - New Delhi
Aparna Jain - Calcutta
Ramon Jimenez - Madrid
christine
Katerina Petinos - New York
Marian Berelowitz and Christine Miranda - New York
Sarah Siegel - New York
Ann Mack - New York
Lois Saldana - New York
Patty Orsini - New Jersey
Jessica Vaughn - New York
Michael Koenka - Amsterdam
Sean Aaron - Emerging Media
Marian Berelowitz and Sarah Siegel - New York
Tobei Arai - Atlanta

Things to Watch

  • Uniqlo, H&M and Retail As the Third Space
    April 15, 2014 | 4:30 pm

    “Retail As the Third Space,” one of our 10 Trends for 2011, is rapidly accelerating: As digital commerce becomes habit for consumers, brick-and-mortar is increasingly focused around experiences, unique environments and customer service, giving shoppers new reasons to visit retail spaces. Uniqlo’s flagship in New York is a good example. A newly renovated floor incorporates a Starbucks (a favorite brand among teens) and, as MarketWatch reports, “lounge sofas, tables and chairs and an iPad station, allowing shoppers to stay and mingle.” Thanks to a partnership with the nearby Museum of Modern Art—resulting in a range that uses images from famous artists—the floor’s design is museum-like, with T-shirts in framed display cases.

    Another recent example in Manhattan is H&M’s flagship, which opened in late 2013, which one writer dubs “The most retail fun you can have with your clothes on.” For more on Retail As the Third Space, find our 2103 report Retail Rebooted here. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Uniqlo

  • Bitcoin middlemen
    April 10, 2014 | 2:45 pm

    Given its volatility, security issues and legal concerns, merchants interested in accepting bitcoin have a lot to worry about, especially with the possibility (as some see it) that looming regulation could upend the entire system. To mitigate the risk and open merchants up to new revenue streams, startups such as BitPay and Coinvoice make it easier for companies to accept the cryptocurrency.

    These payment processors act as middlemen: A shopper pays in bitcoin, but the merchant can decide whether to be paid in bitcoin, fiat currency, or a combination. This allows companies to shield themselves from the uncertainty of the currency or to dip a toe into accepting it as payment. Until bitcoin becomes more stable and regulated, payment processors such as these will be a safer option for merchants. (For more on bitcoin, see also our post on the Inside Bitcoins conference.) —Nick Ayala

    Image credit: BitPay

  • Delta’s Innovation Class
    April 3, 2014 | 2:15 pm

    Delta’s new Innovation Class allows the influencers of tomorrow to spend a flight with a current industry leader—the airline calls it a “mentoring program at 35,000 feet.” The first mentor was Pebble smart watch creator Eric Migicovsky, on his way to Vancouver for the recent TED conference, who was paired with visual artist James Patten, a 2014 TED senior fellow. The next flight, in May, will feature chef Sean Brock as he heads to the James Beard Awards.

    While Innovation Class isn’t the first such initiative, it’s the first to leverage existing social networks on LinkedIn, where potential seatmates apply to Delta. The program illustrates creativity in using the plethora of touch points marketers have access to and can leverage to create valuable experiences both online and off. —Matt Goldenberg

  • Virtual reality rugby
    March 27, 2014 | 1:00 pm

    While the Oculus Rift headset doesn’t yet have a launch date, brands are already using the virtual reality platform to amaze consumers. To promote Game of Thrones, HBO made fanboys’ dreams come true at this year’s SXSWi with an experience that took viewers on an immersive trip up the show’s famed “Wall.” And U.K. phone company O2 has created “Wear the Rose,” a rugby training experience that combines footage from GoPro cameras with an Oculus headset to give fans the experience of training with England Rugby.

    “Rugby balls are thrown at you to catch, charging players run at you to teach you tackles, and at one point you find yourself in the middle of a scrum,” writes Eurogamer. O2 recently debuted “Wear the Rose” at a stadium match and will showcase it in select U.K. stores starting in June. —Aaron Baar

  • Security as a USP
    March 20, 2014 | 12:45 pm

    As we note in our wrap-up of SXSWi, security is fast becoming a unique selling proposition. Rather than treating it as an afterthought and scrambling to compensate if user data is compromised, more tech companies will build highly secure environments for their users from the start—selling security as a point of differentiation until it becomes a right of entry.

    The secure-communication app Wickr is offering up to $100,000 to any hacker who can crack its defenses and is selling a suite of six privacy features to developers and apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp. Another such app, Telegram, offers a bounty as high as $200,000 to anyone who can crack it. Meanwhile, the upcoming Blackphone is described as “the world’s first smartphone which places privacy and control directly in the hands of its users.” —Ann Mack

  • Watson, AI and customer service
    March 13, 2014 | 1:45 pm

    IBM has been promoting the commercial applications of Watson, its artificial intelligence service, with CEO Ginni Rometty announcing a Watson challenge for mobile developers at the recent Mobile World Congress. Rometty also noted that North Face is testing a website that incorporates Watson intelligence to answer customer queries, as seen in this video of an IBM demo at the MWC. Watson could serve as a “personal shopping concierge” for e-commerce brands, as Ad Age put it.

    At this week’s SXSW in Austin, where IBM has Watson powering a food truck to demonstrate its multifaceted potential, an IBM exec talked up Watson’s potential in the customer-service arena. We’re seeing the beginnings of a world where artificial intelligence powers (and personalizes) an array of brand interactions with consumers. —Marian Berelowitz

     

  • Spritz
    March 7, 2014 | 5:00 pm

    Slate may have to adjust the Minutes to Read feature on its articles. In line with our Age of Impatience trend for 2014, Spritz is a new reading app that uses a new visual technology to help people read at Evelyn Wood speeds or faster.

    Pinpointing the “Optimal Recognition Point,” at which the brain begins to recognize numbers and letters, the program highlights that space for each individual word and places it at the same place on the screen, reducing eye movement. The program can push reading speeds up to 500 words a minute. (You can see it in action here.)

    Sprtiz will be available on Samsung’s new line of wearable technology. —Aaron Baar

    Image credit: Spritz

  • Virtual fitting rooms
    March 4, 2014 | 11:45 am

    PhiSix, a 3D virtual technology company recently acquired by eBay, plans to bring more of the outside world into physical stores’ dressing rooms in an effort to increase sales. We’ve reported before on websites that offer 3D virtual try-ons at home and brick-and-mortar stores that have become living, breathing websites. But PhiSix’s technology takes the virtual fashion experience one step further, allowing shoppers to see how specific items of clothing look on them, in a variety of sizes and contexts, without actually trying them on. With PhiSix’s computer graphics, which will be made available to third-party retailers, shoppers will be able to enter a store dressing room and view themselves wearing clothing in a number of active settings (e.g., swinging a golf club, walking down the street). The technology also recommends other items to consumers, based on a few basic measurement inputs. Although virtual try-on technologies, which have existed for a while, haven’t succeeded in displacing trying on actual clothing, PhiSix’s sexy timesaver may draw more shoppers into physical retail outlets. —Alec Foege

    Image credit: PhiSix

  • Daily Mail’s Just the Pictures app
    February 25, 2014 | 3:15 pm

    The U.K.’s Daily Mail, whose digital content is dominated by photographs, is planning to release an app called Just the Pictures that strips out the text for smartphone readers—or non-readers, in this case—who are looking for snackable content while on the go. At a Mobile World Congress panel in Barcelona, Melanie Scott of the Mail Online said the app will be out in March. Per Scott, the Daily Mail’s current iOS app attracts about a million daily users in the U.K., and they’re opening it four or five times a day for 12 minutes at a time, largely for the pictures. 

    Just the Pictures is another sign of images replacing words in our increasingly visual culture, one of our 10 Trends for 2014. For more on how this trend is affecting the mobile platform, watch for our annual mobile-trends report in April. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Daily Mail

  • Full-fat comes back
    February 20, 2014 | 6:00 pm

    Bring on the brie! Last week NPR reported on two studies finding that “whole-fat dairy is linked to reduced body fat,” research likely to boost a recent shift away from lower-fat dairy products. Butter has been bullish lately: Annual sales in the U.S. have increased 65 percent since 2000, with per-capita consumption reaching a 40-year high. And while milk sales in the U.S. declined in 2013, full-fat fared relatively well (with sales declining 0.8 percent vs. 4.1 percent for reduced-fat). 

    The trend ties into a growing preference for foods that feel less artificial or newfangled, as well as the ongoing urge to Live a Little (one of our 10 Trends for 2012).  —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: liz west

  • RSSArchive for Things to Watch »