What does an iPhone app that translates Bengali into English (Transit), a handy system that alerts a friend when you oversleep your alarm (Buzzer Buddiez), and an anti-bullying self-esteem platform (Cyber Mentors) all have in common? They were all developed by talented teenagers from East London, thanks to an innovative non-profit educational start-up called Apps for Good. We met up with former teacher and game changer Debbie Forster at the UKTI press tour last week in London’s Tech City.
The UKTI Press Tour Awards Continue
For its vision and initiative, VentureVillage is proud to present Apps for Good with our latest UKTI press tour award: “Most Likely to Change the World, One App at a Time.” The team presented particular knack and passion, and we were thrilled to meet two of the teenage founders ourselves. It’s not often you get to receive a business card from a 13-year-old.
Enabling a (Much) Younger Generation
When should a person learn how to build an app? According to Apps for Good; between the peak ages of 13 and 15 years old. It may seem young to the rest of us, but Apps for Good is convinced this age group has a particular knack for finding elegant solutions to complex social problems.
Their mission? In short, to enable teenagers to build social app solutions that change the world, one issue at a time. Students on the Apps for Good course are encouraged to identify and define a problem, perform market research, come up with a creative solution and finally code and build the app itself. The best ideas are pitched to the programme’s panel of experts and the ones with the most promise are developed.
Backing from Dell, Facebook, and the UK Government
Currently motivating out-of-work teenagers in the English capital, the non-profit educational program has received recent interest from Germany as well as Holland and Turkey. They’re funded by high-profile partners like Dell, O2, Barclaycard and the Esme Fairbairn Foundation, and CDI Europe. With a planned trial partnership with Facebook premiering December 13, Apps for Good has received well-deserved support.
Founded by a Former School Teacher
Apps for Good is the brainchild of non-profit organization CDI Europe, headed by German CEO Iris Lapinski and former teacher Debbie Forster. A pilot course involving nine unemployed 16-25-year-olds or, in UK parlance NEETS (young people “not in education, employment or training”) which first ran in September 2010 at a girls’ secondary school in Tower Hamlets, East London.
Since then, the UK government pulled together the Education Maintenance Allowance payment which gave financial support to post-16-year-old college students as well as axe BECTA, the publicly-funded organisation for encouraging the use of technology in schools. In August, pictures of streets in London and other British cities strewn with blazing cars were beamed around the world. Apps for Good is bidding to repair some of that damage by engaging 13-25 year-olds in technology and bringing out their entrepreneurial spirit.
What’s up next?
The current batch of Apps for Good products, including – Stop and Search (which informs young people of their rights when stopped by the police); music studio finder StudioPhly; public transport app Oyster Check; and student lifestyle app StudentVoice – mostly use Android, but plans are in place to target other operating systems. A national competition to win development funding is set to be held next month.
With the next Apps for Good course out next Tuesday (December 13), the organizers are hoping for another batch of promising apps. We’ll be watching!
Image credit: Flickr user CDI Europe.