Apps for Social Good: Raison d’être

January 24, 2017 12:00 AM
  • Apps for Social Good: Raison d’être

Capitalism and the altruism gap

Altruism is to capitalism what public universities are to a privatized education sector: those unable to afford paid services are offered access through alternate means by people or organizations interested in social welfare or through technology for social good.

Unlike welfare states, be they socialist or communist, where the greater common good is supposed to inform resource allocation, capitalism tends to leave a void. The gap can be significant where an individual or group’s needs cannot be served while generating profits for the service provider. Examples of such situations include public transport in sparsely populated areas and social security for weaker sections: it is challenging, if not impossible, to find a profitable business model when assessing the opportunity represented by such market segments notwithstanding the apparent fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. Conventionally, most such unmet needs have been addressed by large organizations, be they government or philanthropic entities.

NGOs bridging the altruism gap

In recent decades, NGOs have become an increasingly important channel for addressing the needs of often overlooked sections of society. However, what has traditionally been the domain of organizations has quickly become democratized with the advent of digital technologies. Even individuals now have the tools to make a difference by leveraging the internet to deliver services to the needy.

With the rapid and still growing adoption of smartphones globally, mobile apps are increasingly being used by entities of various hues to channel altruism and make a difference. Characteristic attributes of digital technologies such as the ease with which marketplaces can be created, the ability to overcome barriers of distance, simplifying donation processes, scalability, etc, are being leveraged by backers of app development efforts.


Given the range of options available and the effectiveness of apps and marketplaces, anyone with altruistic intent, be it a private citizen or a large NGO, should assess the suitability of using apps as part of their service delivery process.

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Growing global adoption of smartphones - increase in mobile apps to channel altruism

NGOs are now better equipped to address the needs of often overlooked sections of the society

Even individuals can make a difference by leveraging the internet to deliver services to the needy


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