Software that does good [Part 1]

In my first blog post I talked about making a difference in the real world with your programming skills by building useful products. Some people told me that all software makes a difference, and in a broader sense, it does. If you make just a little bug fix in a JavaScript library you impacted at least the lives of developers using it, not to mention the people using their software.

But lets stop for a minute and think not only about software that makes a difference, but software that does good. What is software that does good? Software whose main goal is to benefit the lives of others, not necessarily excluding profit.

I talked to my friends about this and most of them said that …

  1. I’m naive
  2. I can do this in my spare time
  3. I should start my own business
  4. There is no money in doing that

I don’t know which one is true, maybe all of them. All I know for sure is that I found some NGOs/companies that reached my goal and showed me that this is possible. Sure, maybe there is not a lot of money in doing this kind of work, but I think most developers don’t try to get rich, they just want a normal life.

I think that software is a tool that helps implementing ideas. Software would be nothing without ideas. Ideas are the base of a great project. In that note, let’s start our list (man, I do love lists).

Kiva.org

About

Have you ever donated money without really knowing the impact of your donation? With Kiva, that’s not the case anymore. Not only you can help a lot of people directly, you don’t need to give money, you just have to lend it.

There are more de 1.3 million lenders, almost 1.7 million people helped by loans and they have almost 735 million US dollars in loans (more on metrics).

Starting point

Kiva was founded my Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley. Here’s Jessica Jackley on a TED talk.

Ways they make money

All your money goes directly to the chosen person, Kiva doesn’t take any commission at all. They’re sustained only by sponsors, companies, grants and direct donations.

Instructables.com

About

I’ve always wanted to be a handy guy, but I’m not. I tried building stuff several times and even the simplest things take me more than I estimate. Maybe I’m just inexperienced, but never mind that. Even if you’re a wannabe DIY guy/gal or an experienced handyman, this site is for you.

You can find detailed instructions about building all sorts of things, from knifes to robots. You can join interest groups or you can participate to contests.

Starting point

These guys started from MIT Media Lab and formed Squid Labs which at first started with a blog that gave instructions about creating windsurfing gear.

Ways they make money

From what I found their income comes from advertising and pro membership fees. They were also acquired in 2011 by Autodesk, that little company that has Autocad, 3ds Max, Maya etc.

MiraRehab.com

About

As you’ve seen from their video, MiraRehab si about physical recovery through games. Most of the patients give up on recovery exercises after a short period of time, but this type of recovery keeps them engaged. Maybe as an adult you see the benefits of physical exercises for your recovery, but some kids don’t understand that concept and that’s why this software along with the Kinect is a great thing for humanity.

Starting point

The four founders (Team Simplex) won the Microsoft ImagineCup contest in 2013 with their project.

Ways they make money

MiraRehab has collaborations with clinics from UK and Romania and I think it won’t be long until they reach other countries. Until the autumn of 2015 the software is available only for clinics, but after that anyone can buy the software and a Kinect camera and hook them up to a PC.

 

If you know other software products that do this kind of work, please feel free to share.

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