I had the pleasure to speak at the NetExplorateur Forum in Paris earlier this month. A highlight for me was meeting a trio of the NetExplorateurs of the Year for 2009. These folks are similar in their intelligence, enterprise, energy and affability. The apps that they created to earn the award were interestingly diverse, and attest to the range of capabilities that can be made available to people using Web technologies.
Ushahidi — which means ”testimony” in Swahili — was first used to crowdsource and map outbreaks of violence following elections in Kenya in 2008. Henry Addo, hailing from Ghana (and in pic to right, with me), recently joined the Ushahidi team, and was in Paris to receive well-deserved recognition for their work. I’m seeing references to Ushahidi’s systems everywhere these days, and it has been deployed to chart troubling activities in Gaza, the Congo, South Africa and elsewhere. Their maturing, open-source platform gives citizens the power to reports on events using their mobile phones, email and the Web. Geographic visualizations are created from these reports, for all to see and use.
Mobile banking is of growing importance in the developing world and elsewhere. M-banking provides the capability to accumulate savings, take out loans at reasonable interest rates, and to more fully participate in the global economy (OK … perhaps not such a wonderful privilege these days!). Brian Richardson, CEO of Wizzit, was named a NetExplorateur of the Year for bringing affordable mobile banking to people across networks and devices in South Africa, Zambia and Romania.
The last app I’ll describe is just plain fun. The product is the Sekai Camera, and Takahito Iguchi, from Tonchidot was in Paris to receive the award. With the software on your video/GPS/Web-enabled mobile phone (iPhone for now, but other platforms soon), you can capture video of the world around you, and then information just pops-up as overlays or “air tags” on the objects you are capturing. For example, you might be panning around a gallery in the Louvre, and selectable images of artwork, sounds from friends who were just there, the history of the artist, etc, start floating around the Louvre as viewed on your mobile device. You can add your own air tags too.
The growing value of the Web — whether in crisis, for commerce, or as a tool of creativity — continues to impress.