Apps for Communities: making local information actionable

communities / Article

December 15, 2011 by Damian Thorman

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Apps for Communities Second Grand Prize Winner Homeless Santa Clara County

Earlier this year, Knight and the FCC put out a call for the best software applications, or apps, that deliver personalized information to people least likely to be online. The Apps for Communities Challenge is part of our efforts to foster digital inclusion and promote broadband adoption, which the Knight Commission called critical.

Today, we’re excited to announce the winners - all of whom show a real passion for making local information actionable.

The list of winners is here, but I wanted to share a bit about the projects winning a grand prize.

·      Ryan Resella invented an app, www.yakb.us, that lets bus riders know when their ride is arriving. Users text a code visible at their stop, and receive a message back with the next arrival time. It’s already being used in Virginia and California. Ryan was a Code for America fellow when he created the app, but he did the project on his own time, showing his passion for public information.

·      Curtis Chang, consultant to nonprofits, was on a site visit for a client when he watched family after family approach a homeless shelter for services. He saw case workers flip through binders with information on agencies, some of it not updated and unorganized. So he created an app that provides this information to the homeless, and also tracks referrals that agencies give, as a way to see trends and efficiencies.

·      A team from Oakland, Calif. created an app Txt2Wrk that helps parolees, the homeless and other job seekers compete on a more level playing field by allowing them to apply for jobs online through a text-to-speech delivery of job postings on any mobile phone. Job seekers are alerted to new job postings, can listen to job descriptions, and apply for jobs – all without a connection to the Internet.  The idea for the app emerged at the Code for Oakland hackathon. Only two of the members of the team - which includes Elise Ackerman, Jonathan Chan, Dave Chiu, Lawson Kight, Roger Ly and Alex Tam – knew each other before the event. Since then, the group has worked on it in their free time.

Damian Thorman is the National Program Director at Knight Foundation

In addition to this challenge, Knight Foundation seeks big ideas in media innovation and in using technology to engage communities. If you have an idea, we'd love to hear it.

 

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