20-minute Volunteering: Developing Mobile Apps for Impact

From DevSummit
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Facilitated by Ben Rigby, MobileVoter

What if there was a way for high-expertise people to volunteer whenever and wherever they want via their mobile phones? In this session we'll explore the feasibility of on-the-spot volunteerism.

Through the lens of volunteerism, this session delves into what's possible with mobile phone apps today - along with associated challenges. We'll spend time discussing

  • what's possible
  • for whom
  • in what regions of the world
  • technical barriers and benefits
  • texting versus app building versus mobile web
  • mobile app platforms: iPhone, Symbian, Android
  • development processes
  • ROI

Opening Questions

  • new opportunities for taking your application mobile
  • moving existing applications into the mobile space
  • cross-platform device development: SMS vs. Mobile App
  • international is definitely an interest
  • what are some platforms, features to use with Mobile (Mobile Facebook Platform, iPhone, Android)
  • Obama iPhone app is cool, so interested in learning more from user perspective
  • OpenMRS/OpenROSA data entry standards - how can mobile hook into this?
  • Mobile development tools, approach - What the heck is mobile dev?
  • National public policy, gov't, advocacy in mobile
  • Volunteerism via mobile
  • Canvasing, Event report backs
  • Work with Democrats abroad (5m americans!) - mobile may be next big thing for them?


  • Ben built an application in 2003 that enabled voter registration (mobilevoter.org); users then weren't as sophisticated, used to automated texts, etc..
  • GOTV campaign text reminders day before the election resulted in 4% increase in 2004
  • Ben wrote a book "Mobilizing Generation 2.0" - mobile apps on the device that can detect location, you can be connected to volunteer activities in your local area.... small quick on-demand efforts. a lawyer could help review a contract for a non-profit... someone can help deliver food to the elderly
  • TheExtraOrdinaries.com: Game mechanics with mobile help make it fun, a good deed experience, give you a sense of joy, fits your schedule
  • Sweet spots are things like phone banking, or canvassing... quick hits that are useful, but not long term commitment
  • iPhone is the best platform right now to target for complex applications, but Android isn't far behind: 5 to 1 right now app download ratio on iPhone vs. Android
  • It isn't *that* hard to get app into App Store or Android Market, shouldn't dissuade you
  • Crowdsourcing via mobile: combining passive actions (watch video, watch audio, read instructions, review document) with active actions (write note, record audio, take picture, complete list of actions)
  • This is awesome (Jeff says)
  • while iPhone may be high-end device, not everyone needs one to benefit from the mobile application
  • Textmarks is a free API service for mapping text messaging requests into backend systems
  • MobileCommons.org and MobileCorps are service providers for sms apps $2000/month
  • MsgMe.com is another service to look into
  • iUI and Yahoo! Blueprint mobile platform for XHTML/CSS/Javascript development tailored to mobile
  • Wordpress has plugins+templates for automatic rendering to iPhone and WAP/Mobile
  • International applications are still complex, in that mobile phones are culturally different in their uses
  • Mobile Facebook might be a good solution for int'l solutions to deal with local mobile carrier issues


  • What are the basic steps for setting up SMS/TXT systems?
  • How hard is it to get an app into the iPhone app store?
  • What are the capabilities of the iPhone?
  • What is the best approach to mobile development?