Meet 5 software projects making the world a better place

I was at an event two days ago where the topic was teaching programming. During this event attendees raised the problem, that there aren’t enough software developers. During the following discussion it was suggested that if you could show the positive social impact you can have through software development, it could be more attractive for people to get into. “If there were any such projects.”

There are tons of those projects and initiatives. Let’s meet five of them right now!

1. Ushahidi

A screen shot of the original Ushahidi web mashup taken form their about page.

Ushahidi means “testimony” in Swahili. It is a project that a group of programmers started in the aftermath of the 2007 presidential election in Kenia. There was a major outbreak of violence and it was simply too hard for bloggers and other people to report all the incidents of violence that eye witnesses reported to them.

Enter Ushahidi. It was an application build quickly by a group of programmers to map out reports of violence on google maps, a so called “mashup”. This way they made it easy for people to report incidents of violence and made it accessible to everyone. Well everyone with an Internet connection.

Ushahidi has since become a platform. Anyone can download Ushahidi and deploy it for their own purposes. For instance Ushahidi was used after the 2010 earth quake in Haiti to report events. Also Ushahidi is open source, so feel free to help improve this awesome project.

You can hear more about it in this highly recommended TED Talk: Clay Shirky: How cognitive surplus will change the world

2. logo
The logo is a platform where people can donate for social projects or raise funds for a social project. You may think of it as kickstarter for social projects. focusses a lot on direct and transparent support of projects. The platform is free to use and they pass on 100% of all the donations. You can see a more thorough explanation of what they do and how this is more effective than conventional funding here.

So how do they finance themselves? Well short answer: Some sponsors and friends help them. Moreover donators are free to give a little extra money to support betterplace. There is also a longer answer.

On a little side note: They are based in Berlin and very nice people 🙂

3. Random hacks of Kindness (RHOK)

hacking at RHoK Berlin
hacking at RHoK Berlin (Photo credit: @anked)

The motto of Random Hacks of Kindness is “Hacking for Humanity”. It is a global community building open technology to help make the world a better place. As such it is a prime example of an organization trying to improve the world through the use of software. You can find a list of projects developed in their wiki.

Random Hacks of Kindness hosts global events, also called hackathons, where people meet and work on solutions for problems together. The next global event will take place on the first and second December 2012. You can check if there is an event organized near you here. I’ll be attending the event in Berlin, so go ahead and join lots of other people and me. Let’s have fun together hacking and doing socially good.

4. Mission of Mercy

Mission of Mercy logo taken from their github page.

Mission of Mercy is a clinic management application for free dental clinics and is used in the United States. This application helps these free dental clinics tremendously by supporting the clinc flow. It was created and is mainly maintained by the awesome Jordan Byron, a co-founder of the Mendicant University.

5. Stadt Land Code

Stadt Land Code Logo
Stadt Land Code Logo taken from their home page.

A German initiative (English: “city country code”)  to support the development of more digital tools for citizens to improve social life. Fields of interest include, but are not limited to: public transport, infrastructure and politics. In general the tools should make it easier to participate and really make a difference. FixMyStreet is a good example of such a digital tool. The initiative includes a work shop and the possibility to win a project funding of 2500€.


See there are lots of software projects or initiatives having a social impact or aiming to have a social impact. Do you know any other social projects? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Many of the projects are open source, so go ahead and contribute or join the next Random hacks of Kindness event near you. Start your own project. Host your own event. It’s up to you.


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